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$10 Billion Site C Dam: You pay, no say

Posted December 17, 2013 by Damien Gillis in Economics
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$10 Billion Site C Dam: You pay, no say

If you live in BC, it will cost you, conservatively, $10 Billion – paid through skyrocketing power bills and taxes. It will flood tens of thousands of acres of excellent farmland – sacrifices you will make entirely for the benefit of multinational oil and gas companies.

And here’s the kicker: you have no say in the matter. The environmental hearings into the proposed Site C Dam currently underway in northeast BC have utterly excluded the people who will be paying the lion’s share of the financial costs: you. No hearings in Vancouver, Victoria, or anywhere outside of the Peace Valley, of which 50,000-plus acres of quality wildlife habitat and farmland would be flooded for the project.

Debunking Site C’s myths

Let’s begin by setting aside a few popular myths, peddled by your government, often repeated by the mainstream media.

First, when you hear $7.9 Billion, remember that dams all around the world run notoriously over budget – an average of 27%, according to the World Bank. Add to that the dismal track record of cost overruns for major capital projects under the supervision of the BC Liberal Government – from the convention centre to the stadium roof to the Port Mann Bridge – and we’ll go ahead and call Site C Dam a $10 Billion project…at least.

Second, whenever you read that Site C Dam would power 450,000 homes, remember that this power is not for yours or anyone’s home or small business. And that comes straight from the horse’s mouth – BC Premier Christy Clark, that is. She has told us repeatedly that Site C is necessary to power BC’s much-vaunted, proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.

You see, BC is totally self-sufficient in electricity now and well into the future. According to Stats BC, we exported a surplus of over 5,800 gigawatt hours last year – about 10% of our total domestic demand. That trend shows no sign of reversing for decades to come…unless, that is, we decide to power enormously energy-intensive LNG plants on the coast with subsidized public power.

If we go that route, BC Hydro has nowhere near enough power – even with Site C – as its befuddled, draft Integrated Resource Plan recently demonstrated.

These plants have been granted special permission to break the Liberals’ own climate laws and burn some gas to power the cooling of the rest of the gas into liquid – bringing massive air pollution and climate impacts. Site C would provide only enough energy for one of the larger proposed LNG plants, so it makes little sense for the beautiful Peace Valley, its environment, farmland, First Nations and citizens to make such a costly sacrifice at the altar of LNG.

$10 Billion, zero voice

For all the environmental and food security costs, the widespread opposition from local First Nations, the enormous cost to your pocket book, you get no say in the matter.

With these hearings scheduled over the holiday season and only in the north, the message from the BC Liberal government could not be clearer: They do not want your voice to be heard. Just sign the cheque, give the land and the power to someone else, and keep your mouth shut.

$10 Billion of your money for a dam you do not need: That’s Site C Dam in a nutshell.

So whether they want to or not, this BC Liberal Government needs to hear from its constituents in the Lower Mainland, the Kootenays, the Cariboo, the Interior  the coast. With a government that’s already racked up more debt – both hidden and obvious – than all its predecessors over the past century combined, the people of BC cannot afford to allow it to add another $10 Billion to their children’s Visa.

The founders of the American republic had it right: No taxation without representation. This government badly needs a refresher in that concept.

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About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

24 Comments


  1.  
    john's Aghast

    Here’s a goofy idea. Instead of GIVING the Site C power to the LNG industry, GIVE it to the Manufacturing industry, allowing it to become more competitive, create jobs, generate taxes, etc. Then SELL the NG (leave out the expensive L, the pipelines, the ocean transport, the environmental degradation etc.) to the Transportation industry (trucks, locomotives, ferries, etc. – you get the idea).
    Result: less pollution, cheaper transport, more taxes, higher royalties, etc.




  2.  
    Jeff Barkley

    Once again, the BC Liberals rape the finances of the people but to add even more destruction they have added in the fact that the same policy will lead to environmental destruction by fracking. What do we get in return? A very few jobs, with many of them going to offshore labour. Most of the profits will go to a few foreign corporations.




  3.  
    Tom

    Solar power is the way of the future




    •  
      Gavin

      Much agreed. The only way to cut carbon emissions is to install huge tracts of solar PV acreage (10s of thousands of km2). That will cool the planet a bit. Then use the electricity to capture CO2 from the atmosphere, and produce hydrogen from water (electrolysis), and then react H2 with CO2 to produce pure carbon/graphite and water through the Bosch process. These are all proven and easy processes. The pure carbon is then piled up or buried for good.

      In other words, the PV acts as an artificial tree that never stops growing and never rots.




  4.  
    derek tait

    I was given to understand that Hydro’s board of directors is comprised mainly of American “run-of-river” interests. Can anyone confirm that for me?




    •  
      Gavin

      BC Hydro hates IPPs and run-of-river because they compete with BC Hydro and produce cheaper power, threatening the management and executives high-income livelihood. What makes you think there is anyone, American or Canadian, on BC Hydro’s board that remotely wants IPPs as competitors?




  5.  
    Louise Taylor

    Hi Damien,

    Great article. Are you leading the revolution, too? Do you know if there is an opt-out clause (exception) under the ALC Act that would enable Bennett to do what he wants i.e. avoid farm land that would be affected by Site C from being reviewed by the ALC? Thanks, Louise




  6.  
    Ron

    I hate sitting and whining and complaining lets take action !! …We need someone that can take leadership and help the people in BC stop this madness .What can be done to stop this that’s the answers we need.




  7.  
    tom baker

    STop paying the government. they cant do much without our money. Tax revolt!




  8.  
    Q

    Hi, sounds like the citizens of BC need an online poll to help get the message across. Has anyone considered using http://www.sumofus.com ? I believe that is the website. Nice to see the real facts emerging.




  9.  
    Gavin

    The last project that BC Hydro initiated, namely the Northwest Transmission Line, was budgeted at $390 M, and after one year into construction has ballooned to $740 million, a cost overrun of almost 90%.

    If we use the same cost overrun factor for Site C, the budgeted amount of $7.9 million will mushroom to $15 billion, and the cost of the power Site C generates will balloon from $110 a MWh (BC Hydro’s estimate) to $210 a MWh.

    W. A. C. Bennett almost bankrupted the province when it got government into the electricity business at taxpayer’s expense and risk. A business that government can only conduct if it is run as a monopoly with zero competition. No wonder cost of power generation at BC Hydro is so high, despite having 31 dams, which are the cheapest form (and environmentally the most destructive form) of hydro power generation. Now it seems that BC Hydro is trying to bankrupt the province once again. BC Hydro has planned to spend about $11 billion on various projects and then another $8 to $15 billion on Site C. All at the cost and risk of the ratepayer and taxpayer.

    I wonder if any of the $250,000 paid managers at BC Hydro has any skin in the game? Of course not. They get their bonuses and astronomic pensions anyways, even when BC Hydro has a loss. 45% of BC Hydro employees make over $100,000 a year. This can never happen in the competitive private sector. Cost of private power in Washington State is $45 a MWh, while cost of power generation by BC Hydro is $66 a MWh.

    And you know who owns BC Hydro? The banks. 80% of BC Hydro is mortgaged to the banks. The citizens of BC own only 20% of BC Hydro.




  10.  
    Marlene

    Who owns bc hydro? I don’t think the gov. does. Can anyone tell me?




    •  
      Damien Gillis

      Yes, Marlene. It is a crown corporation firmly under the direction of the BC Liberal Government, which has taken virtually all oversight from the BC Utilities Commission – including over Site C.




  11.  
    JasonS

    Another current taxpayer rip off exposed for all to see yet nothing will be
    done about it . No one besides the very few people in BC that search for real information
    on what our “government” is doing to our province will know about it. No one is able to question if this is a good use for the public wealth because they never sit in the legislature
    any more . This is democracy ? Obviously deceptive people making deals that benefit their
    financial backers leaving us with no resources and mountains of debt . Leading the country
    in child poverty for the better part of a decade ….. meh . What the people really need is perpetual happy hour ! Drink up fools .




  12.  
    Hugh

    My understanding is that the recently announced BC Hydro rate hikes do not include the cost of Site C.




  13.  
    Larry smallwood

    $10 Billion of your money for a dam you do not need: That’s Site C Dam in a nutshell.





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