Tag Archives: ipp

Vaughn Palmer on BC Liberals’ Hydro Cost Coverup


Read this editorial from Vaughn Palmer in the Vancouver Sun on the BC Liberals’ move to strip the public energy watchdog, the BCUC, of its oversight of Hydro rates. (May 23, 2012)

VICTORIA – As the B.C. Utilities Commission moved this spring to hold public hearings on the B.C. Liberals’ controversial electricity plans, the government mounted a rearguard action to drag the process back behind closed doors.

The key move came March 13, when BC Hydro, at Liberal urging, applied to the regulatory commission for a negotiated settlement process on its application for electricity rate increases of 17 per cent over three years.

The process is the formal name for what is essentially a backroom deal, brokered by the regulator with Hydro and the industry and consumer groups that make up the bulk of the players at any public hearing.

Had the commission gone along, the public hearings, set for a minimum three weeks starting June 18, would likely have been cancelled. Much to the relief of the Liberals, who — I’m told — lobbied hard to make sure they never happened.

Instead the commission balked. In a written decision issued March 30, it explained why public hearings would be very much in the public interest.

“Decisions made in negotiated settlement processes tend to be in the nature of trade-offs among the parties, each of which has its own particular interest,” wrote commissioner Alison Rhodes on behalf of a three-member regulatory panel. “However, there is no broad representation of the existing ratepayers. Further, there is no representation of potentially affected future ratepayers. The panel considers this a public interest issue and one that is of significant concern.”

She noted how the June hearings would mark the first time in four years that Hydro’s proposed rate increases were subject to public scrutiny in front of the independent regulator.

“The panel is of the opinion that given the seriousness of the issues in the [rate application], four years is too long a time period to go before such issues are canvassed by way of a full, open transparent regulatory process.”

Since the last outing, before the 2009 election, the Liberals have embarked on a massively ambitious energy plan and doubling of the Hydro debt, accompanied by a burgeoning use of deferral accounts to put off to tomorrow billions of dollars in costs that would otherwise have to be paid today — all having an effect on rates.

The deferrals in particular raised alarm bells with Auditor-General John Doyle, who warned about “intergenerational inequity” — costs that are incurred today and left for future ratepayers to pay off.

On which point the regulator agreed. “A key issue in this hearing is that of deferred expenses and the consideration of intergenerational inequity to which these deferrals can give rise,” wrote commissioner Rhodes. “Further, given the current size and projected growth rates of the deferral and regulatory accounts, this is not a routine issue. In the panel’s view, this underlines the need for robust representation for future ratepayers.”

The Liberals have boosted the number of accounts from one when they took office to 27 today. The amounts deferred have grown from the tens of millions of dollars to $2.2 billion currently, headed for $5 billion by later this decade.

Gordon Campbell receives an award for his

BC Liberals Disguised Oil and Gas Support with Fake Green Label


In my last piece, “The myth of BC Liberal ‘nuetrality’ on Enbridge”, we established that not only are the BC Liberals far from neutral, but rather have been and continue to be complicit in a complex web of legal, administrative and political strategies designed to forward a multi-billion dollar infrastructure development program to enrich the largest most profitable companies on earth at the expense of our Province’s autonomy, economy and environment.
Since revealing some of the details that support these claims, issues have been unfolding rapidly on a number of fronts.
The NDP has established a “legal team” to look into some of the issues I specifically raised in the piece. This undertaking should fully explore and divulge the many maneuvers the BC Liberals have undertaken over the span of both Gordon Campbell’s and Christy Clark’s time in office which support the largest, most aggressive oil and gas agenda Canadians have ever experienced. As the issues come to the fore from this process I will continue to explore the history of the BC Liberals’ complicity in the oil and gas agenda.
Specifically, BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix singled out one pressing issue – the Equivalency Agreement (EA) I and others have worked to bring attention to. This is an action item. Part of the Liberal ‘missing in action’ strategy, defined by the Official Opposition as Government gone “AWOL”, is to let the EA stand despite recent changes by the Harper government which have fatally jeopardized its legitimacy. In legal terms, if BC continues to accept that they have no role or influence while letting the political and jurisdictional wrangling continue unabated, our ability to shape the future of these developments will be further eroded.
While there was significant foreshadowing of the BC Liberal desire to streamline approval processes, it was done under the guise of a clean energy strategy. In the 2010 Speech from the Throne, the BC Liberals included their desire to establish Equivalency Agreements in order to overcome “Byzantine” bureaucratic bungling that thwarted the much lauded Climate Change Strategy. Never mind that longstanding bureaucrats responsible for administering these processes see no need for such changes, as duplication was long ago eliminated and further streamlining is hardly required in functional terms.
2010 also saw the implementation of the Clean Energy Act and much to do about the green legacy Campbell was establishing; little known to us then was the fact that the augmented approval processes where going to be applied to infrastructure projects to export Alberta’s Dilbit, hardly clean and far from green. In fact, it appears the BC Liberals used their Climate Change Strategy roll-out to couch the required notice needed for the Equivalency Agreement that is now being applied to the Enbridge Pipeline Project, which may explain why no input from stakeholders ever occurred in the 60 days thereafter – a requirement laid out in the act in order to enable these agreements.
At the time, it was difficult to see through the puff and pageantry that surrounded the Climate Change Strategy and Clean Energy developments. There was a great deal of very public support for what amounted to a privatized power agenda for some of the largest companies on earth – and a mere two years later we are seeing the that the Clean, Green Energy strategy has served privatized power well.
In the next three months, British Columbians will be forking over 180 million dollars to private power producers, paying between $68-100 per Megawatt hour, meanwhile spot markets are hovering around 8 dollars per MWh. Hence, BC Hydro (read you) will be footing the bill for a mark-up of at least 700%! The Campbell “Green” strategy clearly becomes more about cold hard cash for private energy corporations than anything remotely environmentally related.
Meanwhile the environment Minister remains “Mum” on the current Joint Review Panel for the propsed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines. This despite having revealed his efforts to grease the skids of the project and the uncovering of his government’s coy ‘duck and cover’ media manipulation with respect to Northern Gateway. As a recent letter writer in the Burnaby Now enunciates, “BC Must Take a Stand Now” – in order to pull out of the EA process which affects four major oil and gas developments. However, he closes the piece saying he does not expect the government to do it.
And nor do I, which is why I went to great lengths to point out how the EA was established and how we might simply render it null and void.
Need further proof that this government will once again sit on its hands and look the other way while our sovereignty continues to erode? Then simply read this excerpt from the Premier’s response to Robyn Allan, whose open letter called for the revoking of the EA:
We appreciate the time that you have taken to share your views and insight with us and have forwarded your correspondence to the Honourable Terry Lake, Minister of Environment, for his review and consideration as well. You can be assured that the specific points you have raised in your letter will be included in related discussions between Minister Lake, members of his senior staff and officials in the Provincial Environmental Assessment Office.
A diplomatic PFO if I ever saw one. Ms. Allan had to follow up and re-request an actual response from the parties responsible for signing away our right to properly assess, participate and influence the single most pivotal development agenda in the Province’s history. Here is an excerpt of that re-request:
I am following up with you as the reply indicates that you will review and consider the letter and discuss the points with your officials.  However, it does not confirm that you will address my comments in a reply to me.
Robyn Allan has an impressive breadth of hands-on experience and professional training which dictates her belief that if we do not move now to revoke the EA we will have lost one of our final opportunities to restore our decision-making capacity. This is of great importance and I look forward to hearing exactly what the newly established legal team Dix has appointed does in order to ensure this opportunity is not missed.
Everyday British Columbians can act now and pressure those in political office to move on this and if the BC Liberals do not revoke the agreement we can shine the light on how it was established outside the norm – as I did in my last piece – which may work to render it null and void.


Rich Coleman and BC Liberals Pull the Plug on Independent Oversight of Hydro Rates


Read this story from the Globe and Mail on the BC Liberal Government’s decision to strip the BC Utilities Commission – the public’s independent energy watchdog – of its duties to review proposed BC Hydro rate increases. (May 22, 2012)

The B.C. government has cancelled public hearings into BC Hydro’s rates one month before the review was set to begin, instead imposing its preferred fee structure to ensure a near-freeze of rates that would kick in on the eve of next spring’s provincial election.

Energy Minister Rich Coleman said the public review by BC Hydro’s regulator, the B.C. Utilities Commission, is not needed because the government has determined what the rates should be.

“Rather than put the public and ratepayers into another multimillion-dollar process, we felt it was necessary to just give them a special direction now.”

BC Hydro had initially proposed rate increases of almost 30 per cent over three years, prompting a government review of its operations last year. The government concluded that the Crown utility could cut costs and keep the rates down to 17 per cent over three years. BC Hydro then re-submitted its rate application based on those marching orders.

In the meantime, rates continued to rise on an interim basis, climbing by 15 per cent over the past two years. That means next year’s rate increase on April 1 will be only 1.4 per cent, according to Mr. Coleman’s new directive.

“The Premier made a commitment to keep rates down for families,” Mr. Coleman told reporters in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We found the savings, we cut the costs, we think we should be able to pass that on to the consumer and not have unnecessary rate increases.”

The BCUC review would have given major stakeholders a chance to query the reasons for rate increases, and the impact those increases would have on the Crown’s operations and its debt. The stakeholders include the B.C. Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, the union representing BC Hydro workers, and the Commercial Energy Consumers Association of B.C.

John Horgan, the B.C. NDP energy critic, said cancelling the review allows the government to hide the implications of its years of intervention in BC Hydro operations. “It’s a disguise to thwart a public hearing into the activities of BC Hydro,” he told reporters in Victoria.

“They keep papering things over, avoiding the inevitable discussion about just what it is we are going to do going into the next decade to try to salvage something of BC Hydro after 10 years of disastrous rule by the B.C. Liberals,” Mr. Horgan said. “If Mr. Coleman is so confident in his numbers, let the experts look at them.”

Richard Stout, executive director of the Association of Major Power Customers of B.C., said he is concerned that the government is taking over the role of the independent regulator. “There is a huge loss of transparency. By the time we get to the bottom of some of these costs, it’ll be too late,” he said. “There should be a rate review, not just of industrial rates, but that’s why you have the Utilities Commission, that’s what they are supposed to do.”

Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-politics/provincial-government-cancels-public-hearings-into-bc-hydro-rates/article2440323/


BC Media and Government Don’t Want Accountability on Environment, Public Interest


Well, well – if I had false teeth I would have swallowed them on Monday morning when I saw, on the op-ed page of the Vancouver Sun, an article by Gwen Barlee on sustainability. Here was the page dominated by the Fraser Institute’s own – Fazil Milhar – doing something on the environment that wasn’t an industry screed.

Ms. Barlee is the Policy Director of the Wilderness Committee and a bright, articulate woman who writes very well as you will see if you take a moment and read it in the paper or online. This is an excellent and balanced column as those who know Gwen would expect.

It raises this question. Gwen, because of tax implications for the Wilderness Committee, must be careful of getting into party politics. This rule concerns all advocacy groups who must maintain an even hand politically or lose their tax exempt status. That being said one wonders how the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation get away with their partisanship.
But let’s turn that question over to Mr. Milhar. Assuming that the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are not partisan (you may take 30 seconds off for laughing here) why do they get constant access to the op-ed page of the Sun and the Wilderness Committee do not?
Let’s expand that question – recently you’ve had two large legal firms shilling, in the first case for the great impartiality of government Environmental Assessment procedures, and the other on the benefits of the Tory Omnibus Bill that will remove habitat protection; the Omnibus Bill lumps this in with several other initiatives thus all but eliminating any serious debate on the part that eliminates habitat protection rules for large developers.
Over the years, you have given Mary Ellen Walling, shill for the BC Salmon Farmers Association, space any time she has demanded it.
Now then, Mr. Mihlar, how many times have you given op-ed space to Alexandra Morton who, since 1992, has fought against fish farms? Or to Dr. Daniel Pauly of UBC, a world wide name in science who has consistently opposed fish farms. Or to any other opponents of fish farms? Please give us the number.
How many times have you given space to those fighting private power that now has BC Hydro spilling $150 million dollars over the dam because they are forced, by the Campbell/Clark government to buy the power from private companies? I have tried to get an op-ed piece (and I am a professional writer) but you never even answer my letters. Why have you never given space to Erik Andersen, an economist. Or to John Calvert, whose book Liquid Gold tells the entire story. Please provide me, for passing on to others, the times and places you gave op-ed space to anyone opposing the private rivers scheme which has, essentially, driven BC Hydro into bankruptcy – only formally not so because they can visit their losses on to the public through higher rates or government subsidies, or both.
Let’s move on to pipelines and tanker traffic. John Brajcich, a lifelong commercial fisher (as was his father and is his son) can be found on The Common Sense Canadian – his letter tells what will happen with oil tankers full of bitumen going out of Kitimat down Douglas Inlet. How about Rex Weyler? What about Andrew Nikiforuk, whose book Tar Sands gives the full details about the Tar Sands and the consequences of them being piped ands shipped.
Have you permitted any op-ed pieces on the record of Enbridge, who propose the Northern Gateway Pipeline? They have had at least 811 spills since 1998 including one into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, in July 2010, called a minor spill by the company, which spill has yet to be cleaned up, despite millions being spent, because one cannot clean up bitumen spills.
I challenge you, Fraser Institute Fellow Fazil Mihlar, who has long been in charge of the op-ed page of the Vancouver Sun, to tell me of any op-ed pages offered to environmental groups opposed to fish farms, private power or pipelines and tankers.
Rich Coleman, who learned about democracy as a cop, has taken away from the BC Utilities Commission the right to review proposed Hydro rates and promises that the government will keep rates down for consumers.
That’s right, folks. Instead of putting several hundreds of millions into the public treasury each year, BC Hydro must cover its losses, taking mandatory private power by financial donations from us, the citizens of BC.
This is not rocket science, folks. As we speak, BC Hydro is spilling millions of dollars over its dams because it is obliged by the Campbell/Clark government to buy power it doesn’t need from private companies at 2+ times the market price. It has been reported that this is costing BCH $150,000,000 this year – it will be much more in the coming years.
The reason Coleman, who since Campbell left has taken over as Pinocchio, wants BCUC out of the setting of rates is because they would look closely at this private power public theft and Coleman can’t allow this to happen.
Lastly, today, I want you to know what you can expect from the Common Sense Canadian re: First Nations’ fight against pipelines and tanker traffic on unceded lands and waters.
We support the position of these First Nations but we would never presume to interfere in any way with their pursuit of these claims – if for no other reason than they clearly don’t need us to tell them how to proceed.
On the other hand, First Nations are also protesting against pipelines and tankers because of the certainty of enormous damage to the province we all share and in that we have a common cause and on that aspect of the issue, First Nations can expect our whole-hearted and active support.

NERC, a US-based private entity, has stealthily obtained control of the North American power grid, including provincial electric utilities like BC Hydro

Obscure US Corporation May Be Behind BC Hydro’s Exaggerated Power Demand, Ruinous IPP Contracts


Why has BC Hydro gone so Big?
Over the past few years a number of us have puzzled over this question. The Crown Corporation, in most people’s minds, was given its natural monopoly status in the belief that the Board and Officers will prudently manage Hydro’s assets so as to deliver adequate electricity to British Columbians at the lowest rates possible. For decades this seemed to be what happened, making BC the place in North America with the lowest electricity rates. It was held to be an achievement to celebrate and certainly gave our province an energy edge when it came to attracting new businesses. This is fast becoming no longer the case.
Let’s take a look at the record. In 2000 total assets were $11.596 billion; by 2011, assets had ballooned to $19.479 billion. In 2000, total liabilities were $9.320 billion; by 2011 they too had ballooned to $16.599 billion. If one were to add the yet-to-be-collected amounts held in the “Regulatory Assets” accounts (money we owe as ratepayers) that BC‘s Auditor General discovered, BC Hydro would be negative equity, more liabilities than assets.

Had there been a matching increase in demand it would make some sense but in the chart below you can see that has never been so. For several years the unanswered question has been: How could financially literate people steer our crown corporation on such a perilous course? The enormity of this financial fiasco places the prized assets of BC citizens directly in harm’s way with no credible explanation as to why.
Through the decades BC Hydro has consistently shown a passion to have more generation and transmission capacity than was ever necessary to fulfill its real purpose of satisfying its BC customers. In support of this assertion please consider the Chart below (credit: Sandra Hoffman, PhD.).

The forecasts for all businesses are corporate manifestations of a course to be navigated. Forecasts drive investment planning and by extension, borrowing.
In his 1999 book, White Gold: Hydroelectric Power in Canada, Karl Froschauer , writing about BC Hydro, stated “By the early 1980s, the ‘unplanned surplus’- the equivalent of the entire capacity of the $2 billion Revelstoke dam (1,843 MW)- became evident, and BC Hydro was called to account for its planning decisions. The statement of Robert Bonner, BC Hydro chairman at the time, was reported as follows: ‘ Hydro was merely responding to what its corporate customers thought they would need. He said those industries could not have forecast plant closings and the general slump in the economy that resulted in a drop in the demand of electricity.’”

It is worth borrowing a military concept at this point. The best commanders are those displaying “situational awareness”. It is part of the art of valuable leadership. Chairman Bonner was simply excusing himself and his management team from their dearth of “situational awareness”. There are numerous indicators to call upon plus more than a hundred years of formal economic literature that would provide “situational awareness” for those wishing to avoid making “stranded investments” – those investment that no longer can produce revenues but still must be paid for.
Mr. Froschauer goes on to write that “There is no evidence that these companies were held responsible for not purchasing the electricity for which they had made firm inquiries…Upon revising and reconfirming the inquiries made by potential industrial customers, BC Hydro found that its estimates were now less than half of the original forecast.”
BC Hydro forecasts have consistently being far too optimistic because the corporate leadership and Governments have sought to turn electricity into an export product, forgetting along the way to ask the ratepayers in BC if that is a good idea and at what cost. The most recent forecast is no different than what Mr. Froschauer critiqued.

Demand for electricity in BC is from three categories: residential, business and large industrial. According to BC Hydro’s forecasting manager, the first two categories are driven by population and economic forecasts obtained from provincial sources. It is the third category where the trouble arises, much as described above. BC Hydro’s corporate development officer, Warren Bell, is tasked with taking expressions of need from would be new customers. He has demand growth for this group increasing from 15,722 GWhrs in 2010 to 22,271 GWhrs by 2017. In this group would be the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which has yet to clear environmental hurdles and get the support of the Provincial Government. Mr. Bell is tasking the corporation to be ready to provide electricity to what history tells us are the most fickle people BC Hydro could want as customers.
So does an unblemished record of demand exaggeration and an explosion in new investing/borrowing bring one closer to understanding why? I doubt it. So what else is there?
The answer may be found in another location. Most readers will not have heard or read of a private US corporation, the “North American Electric Reliability Corporation” (NERC). This private enterprise came into existence in 2006 and has the stated intent:
a. to promote the reliable planning and operation of the electric bulk power systems of North America;
b. to act as the electric reliability organization for the United States as certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and for Canada and Mexico as recognized by applicable government and regulatory authorities in such countries, all pursuant to law;
c. to develop, implement, and enforce, consistent with executed agreements with regional entities and approvals by applicable regulatory authorities, standards that provide for reliable planning and operation of the electric bulk power systems of North America; and
d. to conduct such other lawful business and activities, not otherwise inconsistent with specific purposes set forth herein, in which a corporation subject to the New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation Act may engage.
Since 2006 our Federal Government has caused the National Energy Board to complete a memorandum of understanding with NERC. In its 2010 Annual Report NERC states that its “standards are mandatory and enforceable in Ontario and New Brunswick as a matter of Provincial law. NERC has an agreement with Manitoba Hydro, making reliability standards mandatory for that entity.” MOUs also existed with Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Learn about the nature of BC Hydro’s obligations to NERC in this report.
So what has been taking place is the rearrangement of control of bulk electricity production in North America by a private US entity. NERC has the power to enforce its will on producers and looks to have the legal authority to by-pass local utility commissions. It is this development that might be the key to the understanding of why BC Hydro has indulged in its aggressive contracting with Independent Power Producers in BC when domestic demand increases are non-existant.


Hydro’s Overflowing Dams, Huge Losses Due to Private Power


This is neither a complicated nor a long story – but it’s a tragic vindication for a hell of a lot of people who have been telling the story, ignored at best, more often vilified.
Look at page 1 of the story in the Vancouver Sun, May 11 under the heading “HYDRO AWASH IN PRIVATE POWER”, where you’ll see that BC Hydro is spilling water over its dams and missing a chance to make a huge profit and is, instead, sustaining a crippling loss all by reason of corrupt bargains it’s been forced to make with private companies.
Ask yourself how Hydro could lose money in one of the wettest years in history, when their reservoirs are chock-a-block full?
It’s because of the gross negligence of the Campbell/Clark government – supported by the mainstream media (which has refused to do its job and investigate the private power plan – a plan which compels Hydro to buy private power at double+ the market price.)
Yes, folks, the chickens I’ve been writing about for years have indeed come home to roost – BC Hydro is buying private power while spilling its own water over the dams. Your power company, instead of using the water in its reservoirs to make power for British Columbians, lets it spill away, unused, while it pours money into grasping private hands at immense profits to them and immense losses to us.
Moreover, BC Hydro – such is the surplus of power in the US – could be buying Bonneville Dam power for a song and flipping it into a neat profit.
The exposure of the evils of the so-called “run of river” scheme was first published by Dr. John Calvert in his book, Liquid Gold, which exposure has been re-emphasized by too many power experts to mention – though one must point out the work of our resident economist Erik Andersen, who has been putting the price of these corporate rip-offs in language we can all understand.
We at the Common Sense Canadian have had super back-up from our contributors. It’s dangerous to list some for fear of offending others but as the official spokesperson for the Common Sense Canadian I must give special thanks to John Calvert, Marvin Rosenau, Larry Dill, Joe Foy, Otto Langer, Rex Weyler and so many others who weren’t afraid to stick their heads above the parapet.
Do Damien and I feel vindicated?
You’re damned right we do, though it leaves a very bitter taste. For nearly three years we’ve traveled this province from meeting to meeting, trailed by power company stooges putting out the bullshit that we weren’t telling the truth while having no “facts” of their own to put forward. We’ve seen local media reporters have their reports of our meetings spiked by editors told from above to make no mention of our evidence. We’ve searched and waited in vain for just one major media editor to back up the simple truths we were disseminating.
The momentary pleasure that comes with vindication is massively overwhelmed when one tots up the damage including the destruction of 75 rivers and streams and the ecologies they sustain, with hundreds more to come; the destruction of salmon runs and resident Rainbows, Cutthroat, Dolly Varden and Bull Trout; clear-cuts for utterly unnecessary roads and transmission lines; the incalculable loss of wildlife; and last but scarcely least, the bankruptcy of BC Hydro (the only reason it isn’t officially bankrupt is that it can always raise money by raising rates and obtaining grants from the government – this means that British Columbia, its citizens and industries are bankrolling slick, greedy corporations as they cheerfully comply with the secret sweetheart deals the Campbell/Clark government has forced BC Hydro to give them. Yes, the profits from these corrupt deals are, for the most part, sailing out of the province directly out of your pockets and mine..
British Columbia has the right to have this whole sordid mess investigated – we are also entitled to a media that delves into this grossly negligent government action and lays the facts out before us.
I cannot leave without making special mention of Tom Rankin, who spent a fortune in his Save Our Rivers Society bringing the truth to the people. Damien and I are both much in his debt and the Common Sense Canadian was, in large part, inspired by Tom’s sacrifices.
There it is, folks, the truth is out and, in all likelihood, they’ll all get away with it.


BC Hydro Forced to Pay Exhorbitant Prices for IPPs, Passing Over Cheap Power as Reservoirs Overflow


Read this story from Scott Simpson in the Vancouver Sun, reporting on the glut of cheap hydroelectric power in BC and Washington State due to overflowing reservoirs from a big Spring runoff; despite this, BC Hydro is forced to pay top dollar for private power, unable to avail itself of more affordable alternatives. (May 12, 2012)

After a bumper year for precipitation in the Pacific Northwest, BC Hydro stations around British Columbia are sitting idle while independent power producers run flat out.

There’s so much water available for hydroelectric power that a Washington-Oregon utility, which runs full-time to protect salmon and trout, is paying other utilities to take electricity off its hands.

That means bargain-priced import electricity is available to BC Hydro from the Bonneville Power Authority, but it’s a bittersweet opportunity.

It’s difficult for BC Hydro to tap into the cheap power because of contractual obligations to purchase power from about 75 independent power producers (IPPs). Hydro is forced to buy from IPP operators, including big industrial ones such as Rio Tinto Alcan and Teck Resources, even as its own generation stations wait on standby. For example, at Peace Canyon generating station downstream of W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River, the primary source of hydroelectricity for all of B.C., the turbines are sitting idle for the first time in a decade.

Prices paid to IPPs vary by season, from an average winter high of $100 to a springtime low of about $60. By contrast, the Bonneville price in recent weeks has averaged less than $20 US.

Overall, according to Hydro’s 2011-12 annual report, IPPs earned $676 million from Hydro in the 12-month period ending March 31 ­— at a price per megawatt of power that was more than twice the cost of imported electricity during the same period of time

The water is pouring in just as warmer spring temperatures push down electricity demand. Data this week from the U.S. Energy Information Agency shows Oregon with 172 per cent of its long-term average precipitation supply, and B.C. with 131 per cent.

Meanwhile, a continuing U.S. economic recession is curtailing industrial power requirements south of the border.

That means there’s no market for B.C. electricity exports to the U.S. Nor do B.C. residents need Hydro to crank up domestic production.

B.C.’s IPP community includes wind, large industrial hydro and gas-fired generation — but most operations are small-scale run of river hydroelectric installations.

The textbook case is the watershed of the Squamish River system.

Hydro is taking a pass on all the water running into its Daisy Lake reservoir near Whistler. Instead of diverting the water from Daisy via pipeline to a BC Hydro generating station on the Squamish, the Crown corporation is allowing the water to flow directly downstream into the Cheakamus River.

Meanwhile, on two other Squamish River tributaries, the Ashlu and the Mamquam, Hydro is paying IPPs to generate power for the British Columbia electricity grid.


Civil Disobedience Warranted for Pipelines, Tankers, Fish Farms, Private River Power


What is civil disobedience?

I ask because I’m going to be urging such a course in the times to come.

Although he didn’t invent the idea, Mahatma Gandhi invented the modern term when he protested a tax on salt imposed by the British which hurt the poor Indian especially. He broke the law deliberately and went to jail for doing so.

A more current example was that of the Freedom Marchers of the 1960s who challenged the segregation laws of the Southern US by “sitting in” at segregated restaurants; by Rosa Parks who defied the laws of Montgomery, Alabama, by sitting in the white only section of a bus; and by Dr. Martin Luther King who in the same time urged peaceful demonstrations.

Many would go back much further in time to Jesus.

What are some of the rules?

  • It must be non violent. That is a very important rule.
  • The law being protested must be unjust in one or more ways. It must be imposed unfairly or itself contrary to law or justice or both.
  • Those protesting must be prepared to go to jail.
  • There must be no other reasonable way to attain justice.
  • They must be effective.

Where do I suggest civil disobedience?

Fish farms, for one area. Government policy allows them yet they are not only in violation of the UN law requiring the Precautionary Principle but against Canadian law in this regard.

So-called “run of river” projects which, without fail, severely damage the river and its ecology usually to the point of – for all intents and purposes – utter destruction.

Pipelines – especially the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines taking the ultra toxic bitumen from The Tar Sands to Kitimat – which don’t pose a risk of huge environmental damage but the certainty of it.

The utter lack of government concern for the environment and the public that wishes to preserve it is underscored by the recent decision of the federal government to dam the Kokish river near Port McNeill – a river that is home to all species of salmon, resident Rainbow, Cutthroat, Dolly Varden and has both a winter and summer run of steelhead.

Tanker trafficking of bitumen from Kitimat or through Vancouver Harbour which, again, don’t pose risks but certainties of huge environmental damage.

Civil Disobedience has had successes in the past in BC but too often there have been one or two who have refused to obey the law and once they have been jailed, the protest has petered out.

We must organize such that scores, even hundreds, defy the law and are ready to do time.

There has been very little by way of organization in the overall community but First Nations appear to be ready and, if nothing else, the rest of us must be prepared to support them and face the same consequences.

Our first step must be, in my view, a clear statement by environmental organizations and individual British Columbians that we will stand shoulder with First Nations  – and we at the Common Sense Canadian plan to meet with their leaders and see how we can help.


David Suzuki Was Wrong…But at Least He Gets it Now


It’s indeed an overworked accolade but Dr. David Suzuki is a great man. In the Environmental world he is in that pantheon of heroes that include the likes of Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Cousteau. Dr. Suzuki is a scientist but is better known as the man who brought the environment into the living rooms of the world, explaining things in ways we all could understand.

In years when it was unfashionable to be an environmentalist in Canada he, with the likes of Colleen McCrory, Mark Angelo, Joe Foy, Betty Krawczyk and so many others, slowly but surely got the public’s attention. Dr. Suzuki’s impact is incalculable.
But great people make mistakes and usually they are great mistakes, bringing unforeseen consequences that should have been foreseen. Perhaps that’s because people are reluctant to challenge those held in such high esteem.
Dr. Suzuki not only hasn’t suffered fools gladly, he doesn’t suffer those who disagree with him. This caused great harm for those who believe that the Campbell/Clark government has done irreparable harm to BC’s environment. I’m one of those people.

I felt so strongly on this subject that I campaigned long and hard for the NDP in the May ’09 election. In that election Dr. Suzuki and the crass opportunist, Tzeporah Berman, supported the private development of rivers.
Dr. Suzuki now admits that he was wrong to think that private enterprise and environmentalists could work together to obtain the best of both worlds. In my opinion, Dr. Suzuki failed to understand that corporations don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment and only act responsibly when they’re forced to. As a former Environment Minister I could have told him that. Indeed, a corporation’s mandate is to make money for shareholders and for management and the directors to piss away profits on environmental concerns is actually a breach of the trust placed in them.
Dr. Suzuki made his commitment to capital/environmental cooperation in good faith but that doesn’t alter the fact that he wreaked great harm on the environment he has laboured so long and hard to protect.
Those of us active in trying to save rivers were in shocked disbelief when we learned of his position. In fact I was so shocked that in a public meeting I referred to him as a “pseudo-environmentalist”, a remark instantly passed on to him – but much as I admire David, I wasn’t sorry for the outburst.
How can I say that his position helped the Liberals win a close election?
Because I was there. I campaigned all around the province for the NDP and saw first hand what people thought. If David Suzuki thought that damming of our rivers to produce power was OK, well then it must be – those who disagree must be just shrill tree huggers.
The impact wasn’t, perhaps, so great in the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island but it was substantial in rural BC where many races were very close. As I spoke in rural ridings, Suzuki’s words provided an invisible critic of what I was saying.
I applaud Dr. Suzuki leaving his Foundation so that their neutral status required for them, as a charitable society, to get public funds, isn’t compromised. (As an aside, I wonder if the Fraser Institute has such a status or is bias OK for the far right?)
David Suzuki must make amends. He must look at the serious issues of fish farms, destruction of farmland, ruination of rivers for electricity we don’t need produced for the bank vaults of larger corporations, pipelines and huge tankers taking Tar Sands gunk through our precious environment and down our coast and out of Vancouver Harbour.
He doesn’t owe a damned thing to me or any other who has disagreed with his 2009 stance.
He does, however, owe a hell of a lot to his province and to the next generation and those to come.


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Audio: Damien Gillis Talks the Assault on Fish by Harper, BC Governments


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Listen to Damien Gillis and CHLY’s “A Sense of Justice” host Rae Kornberger’s recent wide-ranging discussion on the war being waged against fish by both the Canadian and BC Governments. The pair cover everything from Stephen Harper’s underhanded plan to gut the fisheries act in order to pave the way for oil pipelines and other major industrial projects that would harm fish habitat, to news on the impacts of salmon farms and private river diversion projects on wild fish. (March 14, 2012 – 46 min)