Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gordo save yourself, kill the Bute project

Grizzly cubs at Bute Inlet's Orford river. Photo Isabelle Groc Tidelife Photography

Submitted to Office of the Premier Dec. 09, 2009
cc: Kathy Eichenberger, EAO

Dear Premier Campbell,

You have given us so many different reasons why we should give away Bute Inlet to General Electric and Plutonic Power that it has become difficult to keep track.

First, you told us that BC needed Bute’s power for its own domestic use. But the BC Utilities Commission rejected that explanation in a recent decision, stating that we don’t need this additional power. And indeed the 17 power plants which are part of the Bute project would produce most of their energy in the spring and summer when we need it the least. You, however, decided to override that legally binding decision with an executive order.

Then, in the wake of BCUC’s decision, you explained that the reason we needed Bute’s power was actually to save the planet. By sending energy South to California, you said, we would do our part in the “fight against climate change”. But we are now discovering that much of Bute’s planned energy will not be shipped South but rather North – to large mining projects along the planned $400 million Northwest Transmission Line. Mines consume enormous amounts of energy and as such are among the worst contributors to greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

Quite a plan to save our climate.

We also discovered that California’s legislature does not want Bute’s energy because it does not consider it to be “green”. The only option that governor Schwarzenegger had left to move ahead was to follow your example – override its legislature with an executive order.

Quite a display of democracy.

Finally, you and your partners from the IPP industry have explained that private power would make BC rich. We would be the “Saudi Arabia of the North”, Plutonic CEO Donald McInnes said. However, thanks to the work of eminent experts such as John Calvert and Marvin Shaeffer, we know that Bute’s private power would cost about twice to produce as its going rate on the energy spot market. Buy high, sell low appears to be the plan.

Quite a business model.

The pieces of the private power puzzle are finally coming together. Take over and ravage BC's watersheds. Produce excess energy which BC does not need. Export some of it to California at a financial loss for the BC taxpayer. Send the rest of it up North to power up some of the most devastating devices to our climate ever built by man – mines.

The people know about the IPP scam, they understand it, they are informed, and they are mad.

Premier Campbell, save yourself. Kill the Bute project.

Yours sincerely,
Ivan Doumenc

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scientists blast DFO over sockeye collapse

Dr. Brian Riddell. Photo Pacific Salmon Foundation

Last night, Simon Fraser University hosted a panel presentation on the Fraser sockeye collapse of 2009.

A group of scientists and field experts had gathered for two days to discuss the causes, impacts, and possible solutions to the salmon crash, and they were now presenting some of their findings to the public.

I was expecting a polite and slightly sedate discussion among members of the scientific and bureaucratic elite, which I somewhat felt are part of the problem rather than the solution in the salmon tragedy.

I changed my mind. To my surprise, I found myself participating in a powerful and genuine moment of reckoning.

A chart of the sockeye collapse (see figure below) was projected on the wall which demonstrated that the salmon’s demise, although particularly devastating in 2009, really started 15 years ago in the early nineties.

One after the other, the panel's scientists and members of the public stood up in front of that chart of almost totemic significance and delivered the same message: how in the world did we let this happen?

Particularly powerful was an exchange between former MP and Minister of Fisheries John Fraser, and former DFO top scientist Brian Riddell who recently resigned from the Department over fundamental policy disagreements.

Fraser, who is retired, was not on the panel but talked instead as a member of the public. All this information about the sockeye, he said, was available to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since day one. Why did this not set any alarm bells, why did this not trigger more research? It poses the essential question of who is in charge at DFO, Fraser commented. It is incredible that a vast department like this could not explain that something was going wrong. Someone at the Department didn't do anything, he concluded.

Riddell responded for the panel. He said that there was no question DFO knew early on about the collapse. As years went by, he added, I asked myself: can I do more inside or outside of DFO over my career’s remaining 10 years? And so I left. Ottawa was asking me: why should we give you more funding for your salmon research when there is no value in the salmon? (At this point, the room went: gasp.) Ottawa has lost understanding of the value of the salmon, Riddell concluded. The people of BC carry great weight in delivering the message back to Ottawa about the salmon’s value, but you are not there yet, he warned.

Mark Angelo, the chair of the panel, pointed out that DFO was invited to participate in the panel’s work sessions but had declined the invitation, invoking the ongoing judicial review over the sockeye collapse. Angelo commented that DFO’s decision was “unfortunate”. He did not use the word stonewall, but his eyes said precisely that.

A member of the public described DFO as a “moribund” administration.

Many questions of the public were directed at salmon research and why more of it wasn’t being done. Angelo’s response was yet another ballistic missile fired at DFO: it bothers me, he said, that we don't have specific parameters in place right now to monitor the Fraser sockeye populations. Riddell jumped in: if we had the proper funding, we could get started on the research right away. We could take concrete steps such as tagging the fish. We can work with a lot of bright people across various organizations. But we need the cooperation of DFO on this. For example, the data on the salmon is a public resource, yet DFO will not release that data for 2009.

Translation for those not fully versed in bureaucratic lingo: DFO, either help us or step out of the way!

Alexandra Morton, who was not on the panel but participated in the two-day work sessions, best captured the spirit of the evening when the panel invited her to answer a question about the impact of fish farms on the Fraser sockeye collapse. We simply don’t know, she said. Fish farms and sea lice could be part of the Fraser collapse or not, and there could also be many other factors involved such as viral infections. But what matters, she said, is that – finally – we are talking about this in the open and the law of silence has been broken.

I had come to this evening expecting a pasteurized lecture by the scientific and bureaucratic establishment on why it’s okay to continue salmon business as usual. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a scientists’ open revolt against the system. Life is like a box of chocolates, Forrest Gump used to say.

My particular admiration goes to Brian Riddell who could have decided to finish off his baby boomer career on a rather tranquil note, waiting for retirement in a DFO corner office and then taking off on an uninterrupted string of oblivious Alaska cruises or whatever else it is that baby boomers do. Instead, he chose to step down, which in his world is the most defiant form of civil disobedience.

What we need here is more Brian Riddells.

Panel participants:

Dr. Mark Angelo
Pacific Fisheries Resource conservation
Rivers Institute, BC Institute of Technology

Dr. John Reynolds
Simon Fraser University

Dr. Brian Riddell
Pacific Salmon Foundation

Dr. Randall Peterman
Simon Fraser University


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vote Rafe Mair year's newsmaker

Rafe Mair. Photo: The Tyee

Rick Glumac sent a message to the members of Save our Rivers!

Subject: Vote for IPPs and Rafe Mair as newsmaker of the year

All has been relatively quiet on the 'Run-of-River' front lately. But 2009 has been an eventful year. Many of us have been doing all we can to alert the public about what 'Run-of-River' means to our province. Perhaps none as eloquently as Rafe Mair, who toured for months, speaking to residents in all corners of the province. He was trying to do what the media should have being doing more of - reporting on the the sale of our rivers and what it means to residents of BC.

"In a nutshell, Campbell forces BC Hydro to buy all the private power produced on a "take or pay basis" at up to twice its value at a time when its not needed, meaning Hydro must sell it at half price into the export market and buy it back at much, much higher prices if they do need power." -- Rafe Mair

And what this means is that it will cost us a LOT of money. Some are estimating that BC Hydro will be losing $300 million dollars per year or more because BC Hydro will be paying far above market rates for this electricity. As one individual recently put it: "At least, after the fast ferries were done, you could park them."

Please help keep this issue in the spotlight. If Rafe wins this contest, 'Run-of-River' will get some of the media attention that it deserves.


Please vote by DEC. 11.