Group calls for comment extension to 5,000-page energy plan
BC Hydro is providing the public just six weeks to respond to its 5,000-page draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) - and that doesn’t sit well with a Vancouver-based water advocacy group.
The BC Tapwater Alliance is calling for extended public consultations on the crown corporation’s plan for meeting future power demand in the province.
In an open letter to Energy Minister Bill Bennett, coordinator Will Koop writes:
The Common Sense Canadian highlighted numerous concerns with the draft plan last week, following its release. Chief among these were Hydro’s failure to address in realistic terms the enormous energy demands associated with “supporting” the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry.
The plan calls for the building of the multibillion dollar, taxpayer-funded Site C Dam, which would impact close to 60,000 acres of prime agricultural and forested lands. As we’ve repeatedly demonstrated in these pages, the power from Site C is simply not necessary for our current or long-term energy demands in BC.
BC Hydro has chronically overestimated the province’s power needs, justifying in recent years taking on pricey, unnecessary private power contracts. On that point, the BC Liberal Government announced late last week that it was dumping its contracts with ten unfinished private power plants and considering deferring another nine. The reality is the province’s electrical consumption has plateaued over the past five years. We were a net exporter to the tune of well over 10% of our yearly electrical demand in 2012, yet lost $360 million on power sales as we were forced to resell private power at a substantial loss. With exports trending dramatically upward and demand flat, we have no need for Site C – now or in the foreseeable future.
That is, unless Hydro decides to subsidize the enormously energy-intensive LNG industry by powering some of the dozen plants now being planned for BC’s north coast. These complex variables have been given short shrift in the development of Hydro’s IRP, as the BC Tapwater Alliance maintains.
The crown corporation released the documents in late August, following an initial round of limited consultation with various stakeholders. Those discussions occurred prior to the announcement of a number of LNG plants currently on the table, which dramatically alter the conversation.
Yet, it only announced a public feedback window last week, giving citizens and concerned organizations until October 18 to review and respond to 5,000 pages of technical documents. To Will Koop and his organization, this is all highly undemocratic – especially considering the profound, long-term ramifications of things like Site C, LNG and private power projects:
- Extending the public comment period to November 30th, 2013.
- Mandating Hydro-led public forums throughout BC during the month of October, 2013. “A panel of BC Hydro and Public advocate representatives can present information and then field public questions and provide answers. The events should be videotaped and then posted on a government website.”
- Making public all written submissions for citizens to access and review
- Creating a subsequent period for Hydro to review these written submissions, which should being in December and run til the end of January
- Establishing a final written submission period during the first two weeks of February
Given the circumstances, these are sensible and fair remedies to the obvious shortcomings of Hydro’s initial public review period. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency recently caved to demands for a longer public comment period regarding a proposed LNG project near Prince Rupert – based on seriously flawed information discovered in Progress Energy’s project description. BC Hydro and the BC Liberal Government should follow the Harper Government’s lead, acknowledging their mistake, and taking seriously the above recommendations.
Processes like these should be designed to maximize public participation. It’s hard not to conclude that Hydro and its government masters are motivated by the opposite intentions when they offer such a short window for consultation on a subject so important to the future of the province’s economy and environment.