Taking BACK the Power!

March 11, 2008

Diverse Coalition Stresses Run of River Power is Not Green
Hundreds Rally, chanting “Not Green, Not Smart, Not Needed!”

Working to strip away the green veneer of the BC government’s energy plan and expose the fact that private, run of river power is not “green,” hundreds of protesters rallied Tuesday at the BC Power Summit, the annual gathering of BC’s private power industry, calling on the provincial government to implement a moratorium on private power development in BC.

A diverse group of citizens from environmental, community, and labour groups rallied on Tuesday and heard from speakers from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the BC Federation of Labour.

“It is time to strip off the green veneer of the government’s Energy Plan and expose the fact that this gold rush of private power development is not green, not smart, and not needed,” said Andy Ross, President of Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378. “All across BC the government has opened the floodgates for the development of privately owned dams without adequate environmental oversight, public accountability, or even demonstration of need,” added Ross.

The annual 2-day summit, with its $1895 entry fee, is an opportunity for executives from the private power industry to discuss and strategize on the expansion of private power in BC, as well as providing an opportunity to lobby politicians and senior bureaucrats.

In recent weeks, issues surrounding the environmental consequences of run of river power have gained increasing attention because of widespread community opposition to the proposed 8-stage hydro project proposed for the Upper Pitt River. This development would also include the construction of transmission lines through Pinecone-Burke Provincial Park and could have a severe impact on several trout and salmon species, as well as grizzly bear, wolverine, and mountain goat habitats.

“Around the province we now have hundreds of streams and rivers being staked by private corporations, so this is about more than the Upper Pitt River watershed,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Wilderness Committee. “There is no regional planning and the BC government approaches each application in isolation; not looking at the cumulative ecological impacts of transmission lines, logging, road building, blasting, river diversions, dams and power houses,” added Barlee.

“The environmental implications of the private river hydro projects we are seeing both proposed and constructed around BC are cause for concern, such as the dams and diversions on Glacier & Howser creeks in the Kootenays,” said Lee-Ann Unger of the West Kootenay EcoSociety, based in Nelson. “In addition to the impacts on aquatic species, the project involves constructing a 91.5 km long transmission line through old growth forest, grizzly bear habitat, and over a pristine mountain pass,” added Unger.

“The provincial government is misleading the public by portraying themselves as environmentally conscious,” says Melissa Davis, Executive Director of BC Citizens for Public Power. “The BC Energy Plan is little more than a carefully crafted strategy to dissolve our public utility while lining the pockets of private power producers with the profits, all under the pretence of ‘green’ energy,” added Davis.