Within the next four years, BC Hydro, once as good a power utility as there was in the world, will be broken up. It is, you see, presently bankrupt by private corporation standards, and only keeps, barely, afloat because it can and does go to us the taxpayers and consumers for more money. This will end because the taxpayers/ratepayers will be tapped out. Just what form the break-up takes, we'll have to wait and see, but as sure as God made little green apples, she's a goner.
Read this story from The Globe and Mail on the staggering level of regulatory non-compliance amongst small private power operators in BC. (May 2, 2013)
Internal government documents show a startling number of compliance issues with British Columbia’s independent power producers and say the province does not have the staff to monitor the projects.
A memo circulated within the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations ministry says 90 per cent of projects as of September 2011 had incidents and non-compliance with environmental requirements.
“The frequency of ‘incidents’ and (minor or otherwise) ’non-compliance’ is high,” said the memo, obtained by the Wilderness Committee using freedom of information laws.
Of the dozens of independent power projects that had been built at the time, 45 per cent had permit or legislative non-compliance, said the email memo, written by the section head of water allocation for the ministry’s South Coast region.
Others had incidents that occurred during construction or during commissioning and operations, ranging in severity from potentially stranding fish during water diversion to failing to leave behind enough water in diverted rivers and streams.
“We have not had sufficient staff resources to monitor permit condition compliance,” said the memo.
That meant the department had not been reviewing weekly environmental-monitoring reports submitted by the project proponents who were required to self-report incidents, he said.
Nor had they been reviewing annual environmental-monitoring reports. Rather, they were limited by staffing to the final five-year summary reports, which consistently deviated from approved monitoring programs, said the memo.
It was a “critical issue,” the memo said.
As of the beginning of April, BC Hydro had 55 electricity-purchase agreements with independent hydro power producers and 35 agreements for hydro projects in development.
Vivian Thomas, spokeswoman for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said all of the recommendations in the memo have been or are being acted upon.
The province, Clean Energy BC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are working on updating guidelines for ramping rates — the rate of discharge from a dam — and the province has developed a document that sets out guidelines on a number of issues, she said.
The province has an active monitoring and inspection program, Thomas said, and requires companies to submit complete information before issuing a water licence.
“The vast majority of compliance issues referenced were administrative in nature, i.e. late submissions of required monitoring reports,” Thomas said in an email response to questions.
Compliance information for last year was not available, but Thomas said the ministry is developing a database and tracking tools.
“Post-licence monitoring is an identified priority of the province, and resources are allocated accordingly,” she said.
The internal documents detail fish kills and enforcement recommendations at several of the hydro power projects, including Lower Mamquam and Ashlu projects near Squamish, and the Upper Clowhom and Lower Clowhom projects near Sechelt.
Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee said the situation could only have grown worse in the past 18 months, with cuts to the federal Fisheries Department and legislative changes that have eased environmental oversight federally.
“You’re seeing an industry that’s largely not playing by the book,” Barlee said.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-power-producers-have-high-number-of-compliance-issues/article11691031/
Read this story from The Kamloops Daily News on Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis' recent presentation in the community, titled "WATER + POWER: The Future of BC's Energy, Environment and Democracy." The event drew a crowd of a hundred to the Desert Garden Seniors' Centre Tuesday night. (April 24, 2013)
B.C. isn't confronted with just two pipeline proposals but a matrix of energy-related developments crisscrossing the province and amounting to an unprecedented drain on finite water resources, Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis told a gathering on Tuesday night.
That means voters need to familiarize themselves with B.C.'s position in what they referred to as the "carbon corridor" vision for Western Canada.
"I think we're literally at a watershed point in our province," Mair said, adding that the course of events in recent years has changed his views. The former Kamloops lawyer, MLA, author and radio commentator has been collaborating with Gillis, a documentary filmmaker.
They maintain an online environmental journal called The Common Sense Canadian, based on their belief that mainstream media are not telling the full story of B.C.'s systematic environmental degradation.
And they've hit the campaign trail to spread their message to Interior residents in the run-up to May 14.
"I'm not here shilling for any political party," Mair said. "I'm campaigning because I'm an old man and I think we're literally at a watershed point in our province."
With this election, voters have a last chance to alter the course of the province's energy developments — including pipelines, the proposed Site C dam and independent power projects — to ensure that economics don't undermine the essential quality of life, he said.
Gillis said there has been little mention of the full costs of the vision for liquefied natural gas development in B.C.'s northeastern corner, touted as a long-term solution to provincial debt.
"We believe there are a lot of holes in this theory and also a lot of tradeoffs," said Gillis, whose family farmed in the Peace for a century before it was flooded in 1966. "It's going to be a boondoggle. It's going to be highly subsidized and it's not going to work."
Hydraulic fracturing used to extract the gas poses environmental risks, uses vast amounts of water and is energy-intensive on its own, he said. He showed clips from Fractured Land, a film he's producing on the issue, suggesting strong community resistance to the energy agenda.
Read more: http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20130424/KAMLOOPS0101/130429938/-1/kamloops/power-projects-said-to-undermine-future
As we head into a provincial election on May 14, in which economic policy and fiscal acumen will be a central focus, independent economist Erik Andersen and Dr. Sandra Hoffman offer this financial report card on the reigning BC Liberal Party's record. After promising "responsible, accountable management of your public resources and tax dollars", the Liberals under Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark have boosted BC's total debt and other hidden "taxpayer obligations" to a whopping $170 Billion. In the last eleven years, the provincial debt has increased by a factor of 5 times, or to a per capita amount of about $40,000.
I was recently asked by a reader what it is I want, presumably in the way of government. I want a government committed to the preservation of farmland - not one that gives it away in Delta and destroys it the Peace River country. I want a government that is committed in fact to the concerns of First Nations. I want a government that does not spend public money on party business. I want a different attitude than expounding tenets of the Fraser Institute where help for people is given grudgingly and then only because they must; I want a government that looks after people because it is the right thing to do.
Read this story in The Vancouver Sun on the landslide that severely damaged Alterra Power's private river diversion project at Montrose Creek on the Sunshine Coast.
One of B.C.’s largest private run-of-river power projects will continue to operate at significantly reduced capacity for months due to a major winter slide that wiped out 300 metres of piping.
Don McInnes, executive vice-president of Alterra Power Corp., said in an interview Wednesday that the slide of an estimated 50,000 cubic metres at Montrose Creek on the B.C. south coast may not be repaired until fall at an estimated cost of up to $10 million.
Montrose Creek, part of a larger hydro project at Toba Inlet, contributes about 300 gigawatts of electrical power — enough to power 30,000 homes — or about 40 per cent of the operation’s annual output, which generates annual revenues of $70 to $75 million, McInnes said.
Asked if Montrose Creek was a poor location for a hydro project, McInnes said: “There are risks of road building in the Toba Valley, risks of putting in power lines — you assess all these things.
“Building anything in coastal B.C., the issue of avalanche from snow or rock slides is a risk. You think about those things and you plan your project and design to minimize exposure to those risks.
“To the best of my knowledge, no one suggested this would be a really dumb idea.”
McInnes said there are no fish in Montrose Creek and the slide did not enter the creek itself.
The damaged three-metre-diameter pipe was part of a five-kilometre system that diverted water from the intake to the power plant. No one was injured in the Dec. 12 slide, against which the hydro facility was insured.
To protect against further damage, the company plans to bury the new pipe deeper and create a berm from the excavated material. He said he is unaware of a similar slide damaging any other run-of-river project in B.C.
The Oil and Gas lobby has made it clear that unless government agrees to give 30% capital cost allowances - meaning they want a 30% subsidy on the money spent building facilities, like what happens in Australia - then thanks but no thanks to this LNG scheme.
There are no LNG facilities built as yet, nor will there be unless government pays their capital costs and even then I predict we’ll never see a single plant, let alone the 5 or more proposed. Christy Clark's vaunted "Prosperity Fund" will never receive one penny. The Speech from the Throne and the Prosperity Fund - and the Budget - are barnyard droppings and Premier Clark is trusting that a disreputable, ongoing lie will fool the public.
The Common Sense Canadian's Damien Gillis and Vancouver Co-op Radio's Imtiaz Popat discuss a range of topics relating to water and energy in advance of BC's provincial election, scheduled for May 14. From the economic and environmental consequences of the Liberals' private river power scheme to new plans to turn "fracked" natural gas into liquid to access new markets in Asia, Gillis raises questions that need to be addressed by both parties in the upcoming campaign.
In a recent column, the Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer defends gross overpayments to IPPs on the grounds that the contracts were granted at a time when electricity prices were much higher, which ignores the standard practice of tying contracts to prices at the time of sale. He also ignores the huge debt to IPPs by reason of these shameful overpriced contracts, which stand at over $50 BILLION and rising. It doesn’t seem to bother "Poodle Palmer" that if in the private sector BC Hydro would be in bankruptcy protection at best and that as of now BC residents owe about $16,000 per man, woman and child because of Hydro’s massive $70 BILLION in debt and contractual obligations.
Read this story from The Times-Colonist on new documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee which reveal serious internal concerns from Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists regarding a proposed private river power project on the Kokish River on northern Vancouver Island. These concerns of significant fish impacts were watered down in a final memo to the minister, who went on to approve the project last year. (Feb 1, 2013)
Federal scientists struggled to protect fish in the Kokish River from potential adverse effects of a hydroelectric project, but concerns of on-the-ground staff were watered down by the time a final memo reached the desk of the fisheries minister, documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee show.
The progression unfolds through more than 1,000 pages of memos and emails obtained by the wilderness protection group through an access to information request. Fisheries and Oceans staff negotiate to get better conditions and water flows for fish. Then, the tone of memos to senior staff changes, and at least one biologist objects to his name being on a memo.
“We have a river with incredible fish values, and the memo shows the people with boots on the ground didn’t want it to go ahead. Then politics took over, and it was given the green light,” said Gwen Barlee, Wilderness Committee policy director.
“That memo gets kicked upstairs and it is massaged and changed. … This is what happens when you have politics getting in the way of science.”
The Kokish, located on northeast Vancouver Island south of Port McNeill, is home to five species of wild salmon, two endangered runs of steelhead, cutthroat trout and eulachon, so the proposal for an independent power project was controversial from the start.
The plan by Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and ‘Namgis First Nation, was opposed by groups such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation and Steelhead Society of B.C., but was approved by Fisheries and Oceans in April 2012.
The $200-million project — which will divert part of the river into a nine-kilometre pipe and create up to 45 megawatts of electricity — is now under construction. Its turbines, turned by water rushing over a 20-metre drop, will provide power for close to 13,000 homes.
A staff memo prepared for DFO regional director general Sue Farlinger in February 2012 concludes: “Despite agreement on an altered flow regime, the remaining components of this project, including upstream and downstream fish migration over the intake weir, ramping rates, operational malfunctions and shut downs, pose a continued high risk to the Kokish River fish populations.”
The memo continues, “Based on projects recently built and/or recently commissioned, it’s been DFO’s experience that project failures, malfunctions and errors will occur.”
DFO’s South Coast Habitat Management Unit said risks to fish habitat were high and the precedent-setting project was unacceptable.
Later, the tone changes, with habitat management regional director Bonnie Antcliffe asking what should be done to manage risks and referring to “socio-economic considerations” and the amount of money spent by the proponent.
The final memo to the minister, written in April 2012 and signed by deputy minister Claire Dansereau, notes the project has the potential to pose a high risk to important fish populations. But, it says, “it is likely that, through proper mitigation, [habitat] compensation and monitoring activities … that this project can proceed without significant adverse effects to fish and fish habitat.”
That was supported by an Environmental Assessment Act review, said Fisheries and Oceans spokesman Tom Robbins in an emailed statement.
Fisheries and Oceans twice required partial redesigns to keep sufficient water flows in the river, he said.
Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/kokish-river-power-project-approved-by-government-despite-scientists-concerns-1.64932
Eco-Footprint Founder Dr. Bill Rees on Resources, the 7 Billion and You
With human population exploding and demand for resources fast outstripping supply, Dr. Bill Rees, founder of the "eco-footprint" concept, calls for "a new cultural narrative that shifts the values of society from growth (getting bigger) to development (getting better) - from competitive individualism, greed and narrow self-interest toward community, cooperation and our collective interests in repairing the earth for survival."
Five Oil Spills in One Week: 'Accidents' or Business as Usual?
What do ExxonMobil, Enbridge, Suncor, CP Rail and a Michigan Utility have in common? They've all spilled oil within the past week. This latest round of disasters should give Canadian and US lawmakers pause as they contemplate new pipelines.
All Candidates Dialogue Wednesday Promises "Real Talk on Climate Change"
An all candidates dialogue on April 3 at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver - featuring representatives from four different political parties and one independent candidate vying for office in the May 14 provincial election - will focus on solutions to climate change.
Anyone who has been following the sorry saga of inexplicable diseases and unusual mortality in BC's wild salmon will not be surprised that the information in Twyla Roscovich's documentary, Salmon Confidential, links the source of this trouble to the salmon farming industry. The surprise, however, is the impact of such information when its complexity is condensed to an intense 70 minutes.
Mother Nature, US Govt Chase Shell Out of Arctic
Shell Oil, the first energy company granted coveted Arctic drilling permits by the US Government, is shutting down operations for all of 2013, nearly as quickly as they began. Shell's hand is being forced by the Interior Department, following a scathing report which castigated the company for a series of misadventures in 2012 and early 2013.
Paul Simon Lends Song to Coastal First Nations' Anti-Tanker Video
A 2-minute video produced by Coastal First Nations - a group representing nine different aboriginal communities on BC's north and central coast - is underscored by the famous Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Sound of Silence." The video, which harkens back to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in nearby Alaskan waters, was released around the 24th anniversary of that disaster, in order to voice opposition to the new threat from proposed tanker traffic on BC's coast.
'Heartwood' Explores Clash Between Different Visions for Future of Forestry
"Cortes is not just a bunch of crazy tree-huggers...We want to log our lands. We want a community forest," one of the subjects of the forthcoming documentary film Heartwood tells Vancouver-based director Daniel Pierce. The film explores the conflict over logging practices on a remote island on BC's south coast, which encapsulates a larger debate currently shaping the future of forestry in the province.
Why the NDP Can and Should Say No to Site C Dam
The BC NDP may finally coming to their senses on Site C Dam. On the heels of the release of new documents from BC Hydro in recent weeks, the Official Opposition is calling into question the crown corporation's proposed 1,100 Megawatt hydropower project. And so it should...With BC Hydro in virtual bankruptcy, skyrocketing hydro bills for consumers and businesses, a massive and escalating provincial debt and $80 Billion in additional contractual obligations for which taxpayers are on the hook, pushing ahead with Site C would be the height of fiscal recklessness for BC.
Working Together Through Idle No More - Ben West, Mandy Nahanee, Damien Gillis Web Chat
Damien Gillis hosts a google web video chat discussing how indigenous and non-indigenous peoples can work together through the growing Idle No More movement to address historical injustices and build a sustainable energy future. Featuring Squamish and Nisga'a First Nations member and protocol specialist Amanda Nahanee and Ben West, Tar Sands campaigner for ForestEthics.
The Different Faces of Idle No More - Web Chat
Watch this 10 min web chat, in which two young, indigenous men discuss their different experiences across the country with the growing Idle No More Movement.
Idle No More - Scenes from a Vancouver Train Station
On January 2, 2013, hundreds of First Nations and non-indigenous people converged on Vancouver's Waterfront Station for the latest Idle No More rally. The beating of drums and singing of traditional songs signaled this crowd's solidarity with the movement that is building across the country and beyond its borders.
Travelling Canada's Carbon Corridor - the Making of Fractured Land
Watch this presentation by Damien Gillis, co-director of Fractured Land - a documentary in production which examines the industrialization of northern Canada through the eyes of a young indigenous man named Caleb Behn - at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.
Kinder Morgan Vancouver Pipeline, Tanker Debate
On Oct 30, the Board of Change hosted a debate in Vancouver on American energy pipeline giant Kinder Morgan's plans to turn Vancouver into a shipping port to access new foreign markets with Alberta Tar Sands bitumen. Hear both sides of the story as representatives of Kinder Morgan and the shipping industry square off against an environmental activist, lawyer and filmmaker over the future of the world's "Greenest City", the province of BC and the planet.
Justice Cohen Gets Tough on Fish Farms - Inquiry Report Released
Video from the press conference on the release of the final report from the Cohen Commission into disappearing sockeye. Justice Bruce Cohen highlighted several key recommendations to protect wild salmon from open net pen aquaculture operations, including: removing the promotion of aquaculture from DFO's mandate, prioritizing the health of wild salmon over suitability for aquaculture when siting farms, and even removing some farms if more research into diseases shows they cannot safely coexist with wild fish.
Video: Pipelines "Job Killers" - Energy Workers Union Leader @ Defend Our Coast
Watch this powerhouse speech from Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union at the Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria explaining why his members are "diametrically opposed" to Tar Sands pipelines to BC's coast.
Video: Rafe Mair Honoured with Wilderness Committee's Eugene Rogers Award
The Wilderness Committee, Canada's largest member-based environmental organization, honoured hall of fame broadcaster and co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian Rafe Mair with its annual Eugene Rogers Award for outstanding contribution to environmental protection in BC at its AGM this past weekend.
Video: Rafe Mair and Economist Erik Andersen, Pt. 2 - LNG, Site C Dam and the Global Economy
In Part 2 of Rafe Mair's July 2012 interview of economist Erik Andersen, the two cover the plan to build Liquefied Natural Gas plants on BC's west coast - to sell natural gas to Asia - and the proposed Site C Dam. Andersen raises real concerns about investing in new dams and electrical infrastructure to supply industries like mines and LNG.
Video: Rafe Mair and Economist Erik Andersen, Pt. 1 - The 'Enronization' of BC Hydro
Part 1 of Rafe Mair's July 2012 interview with economist Andersen, delving deep into BC's troubled energy situation, including Hydro's broken forecasting model, rip-off private power projects, and massive debt and Enron-style accounting practices at our public utility - all driven by the shadowy private American corporation to which we've unwittingly handed over our energy sovereignty.