Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Province stops clock on Kootenay IPP

Photo WaterWalk

Fantastic news from West Kootenay EcoSociety's Lee-Ann Unger.

The proposed Glacier/Howser private power project has been put on hold by the Environmental Assessment Office.

This is not over yet (I'm sure you're tired of me saying that) but it's yet another major blow to the BC Liberals' river privatization plans.

My personal comments:
  • Hurray to the people of the West Kootenays! They are my personal heroes and they show us that it can be done, that those mindless Independent Power Producer projects can be stopped. I already paid them tribute here and here, but the magnitude of their feat cannot be overemphasized.
  • The Environmental Assessment Office is a government agency. The EAO does not have the independence of the BC Utilities Commission. It takes orders from Victoria. So any decision that the EAO makes is essentially a Gordon Campbell decision.
  • The Campell government is acknowledging the furious resistance to river privatization in the West Kootenays. It has read the letters of protest that many of you have written. It is trying to defuse the Kootenays bomb before it blows up. It is, IMHO, prepared to jettison AXOR's Glacier/Howser if that's what it takes.
  • The government is playing a smart card here. If they do kill Glacier/Howser, they will be able to trumpet that the environmental assessment process "works". If I were them, that's exactly what I would do. Let's not be naive. The next battle of this endless war will be fought in the public opinion and will be on the issue of whether the environmental assessment process works or not. Get ready to write many letters to the editor!
  • All eyes on Bute Inlet. If Glacier/Howser does get denied, the government is likely to use it as a weapon to get Bute Inlet approved. They cannot afford to lose Bute Inlet. If they do, this IPP business is essentially over. This means that if we have the same kind of public opposition on the Coast as we have seen in the Kootenays, we win. And that, my friends, would be momentous.
Our work is cut out. All hands on deck!


September 9, 2009
Province Stops the Clock On Controversial Private Power Project

Nelson, British Columbia – The proposed Glacier/Howser private power project has hit a major environmental snag and is again floundering over fish. In a surprising move, the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) stopped the clock on the review of the controversial private power project due to impacts on fish and fish habitat noting these posed a “significant challenge” for the proposed project.
“This is a significant step for the Environmental Assessment Office. It shows that AXOR hasn’t done their homework and there are such serious risks to the environment that the government had to stop the clock. It is a step in the right direction,” says Lee-Ann Unger, West Kootenay EcoSociety. “ However, the fact that the EAO cannot reject the project, regardless of its environmental impact, clearly illustrates problems with the process.”
The EAO suspended the environmental review of the 100MW Glacier/Howser project half way into the 180day assessment process. They are requiring AXOR, the project’s proponent, to gather additional information on fish and fish habitat impacts before they complete the process. The review would be resumed if and when AXOR provides this information. The timeline for the suspension has not been confirmed. Surprisingly, there is no legislation in place to provide the EAO with the ability to reject a project regardless of its environmental impact.
Environmental assessments are designed to assess project components, work with proponents to mitigate project impacts and to make recommendations to the Minister of Environment and Minister of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources. The Ministers make the final decision on whether a project is to be approved.
“In simple terms this project should not go ahead, not now, and not in the future. It should be dead in the water. Its construction would come at too high an environmental cost,” Unger states. “AXOR has had ample time to collect information for the assessment. More time is not going to make this project environmentally sound. It’s time for AXOR to pack up its environmentally irresponsible plans for Glacier and Howser creeks and move them out.”
This project, the largest of its kind proposed for the Kootenays, has been dogged by controversy due to the negative impact it would have on important bull trout populations, a number of threatened and endangered species including grizzly bears, and plans to permanently divert water from four creeks.
The EAO suspension comes on the heels of a series of events including more than 1,100 people flooding a government public meeting on the project in Kaslo, exceeding the town’s population; the BC government receiving more than a thousand public submissions on the project, with more than 90% of these expressing opposition to it; and a joint submission made to the EAO by the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Okanagan Nation Alliance and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), which deemed the project’s potential impacts to fish and fish habitat unacceptable.

For more information or for photos contact: Lee-Ann Unger (250) 226-7829


1 comment:

  1. Excellent news. Hopefully the government will follw suite and cancel the project. If that is, next step will be Bute Inlet and then pressuring so that even small projects get environmentally assessed.

    Thanks for the meeting tonight. It was truly informative