Read this story by Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sunon a new report commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which found that of 22 private river power projects surveyed in BC, only 7 met their requirements for habitat monitoring. (June 17, 2013)
Private run-of-river hydro facilities are falling short of meeting both the specific monitoring requirements for their projects as well as general industry guidelines, a consultant's report commissioned by the federal fisheries department concludes.
The Hatfield Consultants report, obtained by The Vancouver Sun following a federal access-to-information request, conducted a review of the habitat monitoring performance of 22 independent power projects in the Pacific region.
The report looked at how well the 22 complied with specific monitoring requirements as set forth in approvals for the individual projects as well as industry protocols adopted in 2012 for long-term aquatic monitoring for new and upgraded projects.
Delivered in 2013, the 101-page report noted that a "major limitation" encountered was "a lack of available information that could be used to document compliance/conformance."
Only seven of the 22 projects documented all monitoring activities stipulated in their authorizations.
Many of the authorizations required monitoring reports pertaining to water quality, fisheries and before-after photographs to be provided within 60 days of completion of construction. "These reports were rarely submitted on time, and generally lacked some or all of the required information," the report said. "Overall, 32 per cent of projects were fully conformant with this monitoring criterion."
Only three projects were "fully aligned" with the long-term monitoring protocols, the report found.
Hatfield Consultants noted that long-term monitoring protocols are not written requirements of regulatory approval documents and that projects adhered to them less strictly. The 22 projects in the study were authorized before the protocols being adopted in 2012.
Paul Kariya, executive director of the Clean Energy Association of B.C., representing the majority of independent power producers, said Monday that none of the 22 projects "had been required to meet" the protocols and that the Hatfield report sought to determine how much industry effort would be needed to align with this new standard.
He noted that the industry "is working hard to improve and develop new monitoring and reporting protocols that work for government."
I find myself in complete empathy with H.L. Mencken, when he said “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
I read Vaughn Palmer in Friday’s Sun, where he said, talking about the challenges facing Bill Bennett (not the real one but the one now in charge of BC Hydro), saying his mandate is "to minimize rate increases to consumers." Palmer counters, "Yet Hydro needs to manage soaring debt, rising costs and billions of dollars worth of spending in unresolved deferral accounts. Plus it is being pressured to deliver gobs of clean, cheap power for an expanded liquefied natural gas industry."
Vaughn – where the hell have you been?
I’ve defended the pussycat approach you and your colleague Mike Smyth have taken towards this government for some years, saying that, unlike me, you have mortgages and education fees for your children that I don’t have thus I shouldn’t criticize the ongoing corporate blowjobs you have given and continue to give the Campbell/Clark government. No more.
BC Hydro is in a terrible way, as are we, its shareholders. And many, starting with Dr. John Calvert of SFU and other academics along with environmentalists like Tom Rankin, Damien Gillis and me - and most notably economist Erik Andersen - have been saying as loudly as our limited public outlets will permit that the Campbell/Clark government has forced BC Hydro into making deals with private companies for energy they don’t need yet must take at a cost at least double the market price and up to ten times what they can produce it for themselves. AND, these contracts are now in the range of $50-60 BILLION.
Where the hell have you and the government sucks that employ you been on this issue? A little one-liner in your column implying that this is something surprising that perhaps we should investigate. Golly, gee whiz, look what I found Mommy – a suspicious looking expenditure by BC Hydro that maybe, just maybe we should have a look at!
The scandal is not just the government and the private companies that just financed their re-election – not just the woefully inept Opposition Party - but YOU! Yes, Vaughn, you and those who employ you bear ultimate responsibility for covering this up, going back to the beginning of the Campbell/Clark government that connived to create these secret pay-offs.
I, personally, bear some of that responsibility, for it wasn’t until 2005 that I started questioning this energy policy. I interviewed David Austin, the lawyer for the Independent Power Producers for several years and never questioned closely these secret deals. I admit that and I’m ashamed of it. But I did start to ask questions, penetrating questions and, hearing no honest answers, persisted.
I repeat, Vaughn, where the hell have you and the mainstream media been? How can you now just slough the matter off with sort of a dreamy observation that BC Hydro has some bills to pay?
BC Hydro is broke, Bust. Bankrupt. At least it certainly would be were it in the private sector. Its only salvation is that it can raise its rates to the long-suffering ratepayers.
Now, in the June 15 Weekend Sun, Scott Simpson and Derrick Penner do an interview with Rich Coleman, who is in charge of getting Liquefied Natural Gas rolling. Good Grief! Can't anyone ask a question? A real question? One slow pitch after another!
But the mainstream media and their neutered columnists are as much to blame as is the lily-livered Opposition. You have never even questioned this so-called "run of river", private power policy, just as you have never questioned salmon farms, pipelines and tankers. You have let it happen and thus it happened. Now, it would seem, you will give Coleman and company free rein as they try with LNG to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - and fail.
All of you should at least admit it, late in the day though it is, and start telling the people the truth and force the government to do the same.
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.
Here is the crunch: Mike Harcourt will not be to blame and nor will Glen Clark, Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh. Nor will it be because of some unforeseen world market.
This catastrophe belongs to Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark alone. They forced BC Hydro into making huge "sweetheart" deals with private producers to whom they now owe some $50-60 BILLION; the entire sordid affair happened on their watch with their blessing.
Christy Clark and the Liberals, on May 14, 2013, inherited their own tailor made dunghill, the only challenge being to clean it up without accepting responsibility. And with economists like our own Erik Andersen, the truth will emerge every inch of the way.
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 this story from TheKamloops 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.
9. The most open, accountable and democratic government in Canada.
10. Responsible, accountable management of your public resources and tax dollars.
It is generally known that our government tasked BC Hydro to contract with Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for new electricity generation. These contracts are for lengthy terms and billions of dollars in payment obligations. Contrary to “Vision 9” the government made these contracts secret as shown by a reply from the BC Utilities Commission dated December 29, 2009: “Pursuant to Section 71 of the Utilities Commission Act, we are unable to fulfill your request as the Agreement [contract] was filed explicitly in confidence by BC Hydro.”
Because these contracts have been made secret it means we can speculate as to why. The most obvious reason is that the government knows the IPP contracts are not in the best interests of the public. That in turn means they are very much in the interests of private investors who wish to get a “free ride” on the citizens of BC. It is highly likely these contracts will be with us for 20-40 years and while we pay off the cost of this infrastructure, we likely earn no ownership in the end. Nice work if you can find it.
Next, let’s take a look at what the BC Auditor General had to say about BC Hydro’s accounting practices in a letter dated October 2011:
Unfortunately, though, government is requiring BC Hydro to adopt part of an American accounting standard that allows rate regulation, abandoning the transparency that will be required by Canadian GAAP. It is my hope they will reconsider.
They have not.
It takes little imagination to understand the departure of the Auditor General after trying to get full disclosure at BC Hydro and from the government itself. There have been more than ten years of annual reporting inadequacies that the government has ignored, mostly regarding disclosures of debts.
To help readers come to grips with this deliberate pattern of non-disclosure the following graph is offered for your consideration.
The period shown is a little greater than 35 years. For the first 15 the government of the day was BC Social Credit. Reported debt in that period tripled from a low base of $5 billion. However, it should be noted that a lot of infrastructure was built in that timeframe.
The following 10 years was a period of the BC NDP having dominion in the Legislature. In that period the reported debt doubled to about $35 billion, or $8,428 per capita.
Staying with this theme the Liberals declared they would “Pass real Balanced Budget legislation, to make balanced budgets mandatory by our third full budget and to hold all ministers individually accountable.”
They also vowed to “Pass real Truth in Budgeting legislation that ensures all provincial finances are fully, accurately and honestly reported under Generally Accepted Accounting Principals.”
Since making those bold promises the record does not provide evidence of follow through. Since 2005, the government has been accumulating debt at a breathtaking pace, mostly under the heading of what the Auditor General calls “Contingencies and Contractual Obligations”.
By letter, he states that the total for fiscal year end 2011/12 in this category is “$96.374 billion and can be found on the Summary Financial Statements page 77.” Before anyone asks if there is double counting of this number, the answer, according to the Auditor General, is “They are not included in the liabilities recorded on the Summary Financial Statement’s Consolidated Statement of Financial Position.”
Virtually every person we have spoken with has had no idea that on top of the $70 billion in liabilities (debt + other liabilities), that the government disclosed a year ago, there is an additional $96.374 billion in contractual obligations. That translates into a total debt of approximately $170 billion and will be significantly more when the 2012/13 financial reports are presented. In the last eleven years under the BC Liberal government the provincial debt has increased by a factor of 5 times, or to a per capita amount of about $40,000.
Provincial Budgeting Considerations
When there is talk of the growth in provincial GDP (economy), one should realize that it happened almost exclusively because of the binge in borrowing and building, a practice that cannot continue without serious consequences for the population. Debt repayment and its attendant interest has and continues to crowd out all other funding requirements when preparing budgets.
Two years ago Standard & Poor’s Credit Rating Agency delivered a report titled “Canadian Provinces Face Tough Choices in Restoring Fiscal Balance”.
The report states, “Health care and education make up a commanding share of their [provinces] overall spending; typically health care and education spending accounts for more than 65% of a province’s operating expenditures.”
“Rising debt service burdens further limit financial flexibility because as these burdens increase as a share of total spending, they crowd out other program spending.”
Two years ago this was in the hands of the government, yet it did not curb borrowing and spending in any discernible way. Nor did the troubling news cause the government to seek new revenues from the “free riders” and those with the capacity to pay more. In stark contrast to heeding these warnings, the government resolved to further cripple budgets for health care and education.
The Liberal government of BC has prepared a financial “poison chalice” for the citizens of BC through runaway debt. The consequence of too much debt is loss of democracy - at least that is what the Greeks, Cypriots, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish have realized.
I was recently asked by a reader what it is I want, presumably in the way of government.
I'm not so naïve as to think I’ll ever be satisfied, but neither is anyone else. Unless we’re members of a party or one of its cheerleaders we understand that human institutions will contain the human frailties we all have.
First, I want an understanding of this simple proposition – the NDP in the 90s were hit by the failure of the Thai baht, which crippled our forestry industry, thus our provincial coffers. The NDP had no notice of this event nor did anyone else. During their time in office, the BC Debt increased two fold.
On the other hand, the Liberals suffered from the crash of the stock market and a fairly deep recession. They did or ought to have had notice of this. All the signs were there. The longest Bull Market in history. Bad mortgages being bundled as “securities”. An over-heated economy. If the BC Ministry of Finance didn’t report the obvious signs, they should have been cashiered to a person. Or, more likely, if the Finance Minister didn’t demand the key figures on a regular basis, or didn’t report the truth to the cabinet, he should have been cashiered. But I go further – it wasn’t just the Minister of Finance who had that obligation but Treasury Board. I’ve been there and know how the system is supposed to work.
During the Liberal years the provincial debt and other hidden "taxpayer obligations" - which are a debt, just by another name - have more than quadrupled!
Secondly, I want a government of people for people, not political hacks governing for the few.
During the Liberal era, we’ve seen the privatization of BC Ferries, the giveaway of BC Rail and the essential bankruptcy of BC Hydro.
Let’s deal with the latter. And I suggest that the main reason the Campbell/Clark Government hasn’t been more answerable for Hydro is that no one can believe that any government could be so goddamned stupid as to force BC Hydro to take private power, whether they need it or not, at more than double the market price and up to ten times more expensively than Hydro can make it itself. BC Hydro has gone from being the jewel in our crown to a faded rose that owes private companies about $60 BILLION, which will be paid off by the taxpayer.
That, sad to relate, is not the only bit of bad news from Hydro, which is fixing to build Site “C” as an $8 billion dollar support of the natural gas industry and its commitment to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). This will be done notwithstanding the distinct possibility that there will be no long term international need of our gas. Site “C” will destroy more than 4,000 hectares of some of the finest farmland in the country. This isn’t supposition – Premier Clark has dedicated Site “C” power to the making of LNG.
Thirdly, I want a government that cares about the environment. The Liberals are very good at saying they are for the environment but that sort of Orwellian bafflegab ought not to fool anyone.
Not only have the Liberals not stood against sending bitumen in pipelines across our province - they have, through the premier’s mouth, supported one for David Black’s proposed refinery in Kitimat. It follows from this that the Clark government supports oil tanker traffic in at least three ports in BC, including the port of Vancouver.
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.
Finally, I’m just tired of this bunch. Perhaps it's BC Rail and the private power bust-up of BC Hydro that has me most upset. These two acts were not a mistake…or perhaps just a deal that didn’t work out. The former wouldn’t pass the most elementary smell test and the latter is plainly a pay-off to pals. In both cases the damage to our economy has been enormous and in the latter case ongoing.
If nothing else, it’s time for this bunch to sit in the sin-bin and watch for awhile.
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 famous bordello keeper of the 20s, Texas Guinan, used to greet her “guests” with, “Hello suckers!”
Texas Guinan has her presence today in the form of BC's Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
First we must understand some underlying facts about BC finances.
A balanced budget - your style and mine - has us forecasting revenues and expenses accurately, including everything, not something to be pushed at a banker after a three martini lunch. If you don’t include everything you’ll have to borrow money when the car breaks down.
You and I know that if we don’t include everything, we’re just fooling ourselves. Well, folks, there’s no gentle way to put it. We have been played for fools and I’m only going to deal with three headings and leave the deep analysis to economists.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
We are selling off some $800 million of Crown assets. This is like you and me selling our homes and using the revenue to balance our current budget. Using money from capital assets, you and I would say, doesn’t belong in our family’s budget because it simply isn’t proper revenue any more than selling off the family jewels is proper revenue.
Governments make up their own rules, of course, and some things that ought not to be are in the annual budget, while other things that ought to be there are missing.
Private Power Rip-off
Take BC Hydro - in fact, take it before General Electric takes it if the Liberal government is, God forbid, re-elected.
Under this government, BC Hydro, which used to pay us taxpayers hundreds of millions per year from its operating profits, is now essentially bankrupt, though not yet formalized. It will be sold with a Liberal victory in May.
No government would do such a thing?
Can you say BC Ferries? Can you say BC Rail?
Since the Liberals embarked on their deliberate plan to bankrupt BC Hydro, our crown jewel has seen its debt and contractual obligations rise to about $80 BILLION.
How has this happened?
Much of it comes from the sweetheart contracts BC Hydro is forced to give Independent Power Producers (IPPs). These contracts cost the public as high as five times the market rate for power and have pushed Hydro into an annual deficit position.
The trouble in dealing with this is it’s difficult if not impossible to believe.
Well believe it. Mair’s Axiom #1 prevails: “You make a serious mistake assuming that people in charge know what the hell they are doing.”
Now, if your family business started to lose big bucks and you decided to pump money from your family's other sources of income into it, you would certainly show that in your budget. The Liberal government hasn’t told you about that.
LNG Pipe Dream
Finally, let’s take a look at projected income, particularly from Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), which is to be our fiscal saviour. Indeed, according to Premier Clark, we’ll be rolling in dough with this money!
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has made it clear that unless the BC government and the federal government agree 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.
A glance at the Australia experience shows that at the end of the day, the taxpayer ends up footing a big portion of the construction costs to serve a world that doesn’t want their product.
Here's what one BC political blog had to say on the matter, comparing the LNG issue to our experience with private power:
...LNG exporters are just like our IPP run of river companies, who did nothing, built nothing, acted only on their own behalf, and laid out no money to build 1 kilowatt of power without 30 and 40 year guaranteed contracts, contracts that Gordon the thief Campbell was more than willing to sign. IPPs did not take one single risk, we, the taxpayers, the BC Hydro ratepayers were ripped off...
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.