Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams B.C.’s run-of-river “gold rush”

March 6, 2009

From the Georgia Straight

By Travis Lupick

The ongoing scramble to set up independent power projects on British Columbia’s rivers is "anarchy", Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told an audience in Whistler yesterday (March 4).

"It is a gold-rush mentality with people rushing, not only to build the projects, but to connect them to the main power grid with long power lines and do tremendous amounts of logging and the disruption of ecosystems," the environmental activist and author charged.

Kennedy was the keynote speaker for the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment’s 20th anniversary celebration.

In a post-lecture interview with various media outlets, Kennedy argued that every proposed run-of-river power project in B.C. should be required to complete an environmental assessment before approval is given for construction.

According to the Reviewable Projects Regulation of B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Act, a hydroelectric power plant is only reviewed by the Environmental Assessment Office if it will produce 50 megawatts of electricity or more.

For this reason, Kennedy said, many independent power projects in B.C. are designed to only produce 49 megawatts of electricity.

"There is no overall plan; there has been no overall assessment of impact," Kennedy said. "I think all the environmental community is saying is, ‘Look, before you give away a public-trust asset, before you privatize virtually all of the streams in British Columbia, let’s find out which of these projects make sense economically for the people…and which ones we can find less-destructive alternatives [for].’"