From Gwen Barlee, Policy Director at the Wilderness Committee:
I just wanted to report back on an information picket the Wilderness Committee held outside of a General Electric and Plutonic Power event in Vancouver last Sunday.
Last Friday we received notice that General Electric, one of the largest multinationals in the world, along with their Canadian partners Plutonic Power, were holding an invitation-only open house to feature their new energy projects in BC - including numerous river privatization projects.
GE, worth an estimated $48 billion, epitomizes the public concern around the loss of control of BC rivers to massive corporations. As one of the largest companies on the planet, the US-based GE has a checkered history involving large-scale air and water pollution. Amongst numerous environmental transgressions GE is linked to scores of Superfund toxic waste sites in the United States, pollution of the Hudson and Housatonic Rivers and the release of as much as a million pounds of highly toxic PCBs.
Standing outside of the heavily guarded event was interesting. Corporate investors, BC Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers, selected media, bigwigs from Plutonic Power and GE including Donald McInnes, CEO of Plutonic Power and GE Services CEO Alex Urquhart were amongst the high-profile insiders who were ushered into the event. Interestingly, Tzeporah Berman of Power Up was also at the GE/Plutonic promotion.
Occasionally, a bemused investor would wander outside to see what the fuss was about. In several discussion with investors what became clear was the fact that public good, high environmental standards, proper planning and public power were foreign concepts; instead, private profits and closed-door meetings were considered the norm and something we, the public, would need to accept. In fact we were told if we weren’t “so negative” we would have been invited inside.
This information picket was interesting on many levels - the public outside picketing, while government insiders and powerful CEOs were inside busily trying to divvy up BC’s rivers.
The transformation of GE from corporate polluter to environmental savour was complete when Tzeporah was quoted in the Globe and Mail the next day saying, “The climate challenge requires us all to reevaluate our priorities... We’ve seen that in the environmental movement’s struggle to move from focusing on wilderness politics and place-based campaigns, to be willing to stand up for solutions that require development.”
For the record the Wilderness Committee would rather stand up for BC’s wild places than allow scores of rivers to be put into pipes to enhance the bottom line of one of the largest corporations in the world. We also don’t want to see our public utility, BC Hydro, run into the ground. We can, and will, stop the give away of BC’s rivers to corporate interests.
Stay tuned. In the next few weeks we will be announcing events being held in Victoria, Vancouver and Campbell River to help save the wild rivers of Bute Inlet from GE and Plutonic’s massive industrial proposal. Together we can make sure clean energy is done right: in a way that puts the public good over corporate profits and includes high environmental standards and proper planning.
Just as all of us stopped environmentally damaging and poorly planned private power projects in the Upper Pitt and at Glacier Howser in the Kootenays, we can keep our rivers wild and our power public throughout BC.
Gwen Barlee | Policy Director