Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tseporah Berman on the Backlash Against Green Power in BC

Tseporah Berman wrote this piece on what is happening BC.

She went up Toba Inlet and checked out the proposed locations for the Plutonic Power run of the river projects in the area. She saw first hand that the project is not an environmental threat to the region.

To say that all run-of-river projects destroy rivers and are not ‘green’ is absurd. I’ve been up to Toba/Montrose with the Klahoose. I’ve seen how Plutonic’s operations are reopening tributaries and cleaning up the mess of crushed culverts and downed bridges that logging left behind. The same would hold true for other heavily logged areas like Bute Inlet. I was fully prepared to see impacts on the river and was pleasantly surprised to find that, contrary to the horror stories circulating, the water diversion is high up near the glacial outflow, above waterfalls (fish barriers) where there are barely even nutrients in the water. The salmon habitat and water flows remain intact. Most people won’t know this because it turns out I am the only environmentalist that has bothered to take the Klahoose up on their invitation to go and see it for myself.
For years environmentalists have been talking about respecting the First Nations and giving them say over their territories, turns out it this was all lip service that ended as soon as any aboriginals were not interesting in being 'noble savages'.

The Green Party and the NDP talk about the need for a green economy and for green jobs. Plutonic Power is doing what they are asking for. The BC Liberals have made it possible for businesses in BC to develop green power. If run of the river projects are not green enough to be part of the green economy, what possibly could be green enough?

The push for green businesses has worked, companies are willing to invest billions of dollars to make the environment a better place. They are willing to take more action to fight climate change through development of projects in BC than any government has anywhere in North America. The Bute Inlet project will displace 2 000 000 tonnes of CO2 per year - that is enough of a savings to offset the CO2 emissions of Kamloops.

We have reached a point in BC where the leaders on the environment in BC are businessmen and the main free enterprise party. If the environment matters to a voter in BC, the obvious decision on May 12th is to vote for the BC Liberals.


BustaGrill said...

Mr. Schulmann, you may consider yourself an iconoclast, but all I see here is regurgitation of energy industry propaganda. Run of river hydropower is of course a much better alternative to fossil fuels. However, even with alternatives there can be severe environmental impacts, and that requires careful landuse planning. Renewable energy development in BC is currently not subject to any semblance of a comprehensive land use planning process. Check out and tell me if you think that such a scale of proposed industrial development should not be subject to a rigorous, transparent, and democratic planning process where cumulative environmental impacts are considered.

I'm typically non-partisan, but suggesting that the BC Liberals are good environmentalists is absolute insanity. This is the party that gutted the Ministry of Environment, wants to lift the moratorium on offshore oil and gas development, allow rampant clearcutting of old growth forests and raw log exports, promote coal bed methane extraction in the Flathead Valley and Klappan (aka. Sacred Headwaters), and are bending over backwards to allow Enbridge to build a dual pipeline from the tar sands to Kitimat which would increase the production in the tar sands, and see crude and condensate tankers plying our northern coastline.

Another thing. IPPs were not invented by the BC Liberals, they actually were brought in by the NDP. It was Liberals who took away public oversight, declared that projects under 50 MW were not subject to official environmental assessments, and took away the power of local governments to make zoning decisions about were energy development could or could not occur. The onslaught of water license and land use applications has government biologists completely overwhelmed and unable to properly assess projects - I've talked to several and they all tell me the same thing. The gold rush mentality has energy companies fiercely competing with each other for Electricity Purchase Agreements, forcing them to cut corners wherever possible, and every energy company executive I've talked to (about 5 of them) has told me that we would be much better of with planning process.

"Companies are willing to invest billions of dollars to make the environment a better place." You're an idiot. They're investing because the government is selling them our public assets for a song, and agreeing to buy back power from them at a set rate for 40 years regardless of market value.

The environment matters to me more than just about anything, and that is why I am telling everyone I can to NOT vote for the BC Liberals.

BustaGrill said...

One more thing, Mr. Schulmann,

"The push for green businesses has worked, companies are willing to invest billions of dollars to make the environment a better place. They are willing to take more action to fight climate change through development of projects in BC than any government has anywhere in North America."

One of the larger "green businesses" you speak of is Brookfield Renewable Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., with 47 active water license applications for power production on various BC rivers and streams. You can read all about them here:

Still think they're a "green business" who want to "make the environment a better place"? While many of the employees of these IPP companies are likely very well meaning individuals, and renewables are better than fossil fuels, you're out to lunch if you think their ultimate motivation is anything other than profit.

Nickname unavailable said...

It's a bit ignorant to imply that companies aren't in it to make a dollar, that's why any company exists. That being said, all IPPS aren't equal, some are going about it the right way, and I have friends that are First Nations that are directly benefitting, I have seen how these corporate partnerships change their lives.

It's no secret that more land use planning and proper siting is a good idea and some developers have also agreed with that approach.

I am suprised you refer people to without adding context that an application is just an application until all permits/environmental reviews/licenses are recieved, which is no easy feat. You know as well as anyone else that most of these will never see the light of day as projects, so adding to the fearmongering doesn't serve you well.

You state you are non-partisan, but it seems to me that you are spouting many of the same NDP-based union messages that support a moratorium. More planning, I agree, but I also think that private power has a place in BC and if we don't give it a shot with the right developers, before long we'll be in the dark, because conservation isn't going to be the white knight some folks seem to think it will be.

Anonymous said...


IPP's and ROR's have been in BC since the turn of the Century.

Kootenay Power is private ROR and supplies power to a vast area of BC. So is Nelson Power.

BC has intensive land use planning. To say it doesn't is just plain
The ALR is a one fine example.

Bute inlet has been logged and replanted .... Most of the roads are already built.

This is just NDP-COPE378 Rehash the Bashing of Gordo for the upcoming election.

Isn't Cope378 pension fund profit based? Why not invest in Plutonic?

BustaGrill said...


There are indeed some great IPPs going ahead where First Nations have ownership, and where the projects are directly eliminating diesel power generation. The projects in Hartley Bay and Klemtu are perfect examples. Many First Nations have negotiated good agreements for themselves with power companies, and that is their sovereign right. But it doesn't negate the need for a comprehensive, rigorous, transparent, and inclusive land-use planning process for energy development. And you can't have a proper process if the companies with the deeper pockets for the expensive permitting process get to jump the queue, while the little guys straggle along. A moratorium would help level the playing field. Dozens of projects have been approved since 2001 and are now under construction or operational. I think now would be a good time to take a time out and ask how much more we need, how quickly, and what ecological values we are willing to sacrifice for hydroelectric power. Then we proceed with the very best projects first.

Many of the union arguments are indeed quite self serving, as are the arguments coming from industry. The private sector certainly has a role to play in all of this, but signing away water rights to the likes of General Electric and Brookfield Asset Management without any public oversight or transparency into the decision making process is an affront to BC ratepayers, and a threat to our sovereignty.

No fear mongering intended by referring IPP watch. I specifically said "proposed development", not "planned development". My point is that 700 development proposals (over 250 in the southcoast/vancouver island region alone) warrant the sort of planning process I describe above. Do you disagree?

Increased conservation is absolutely essential, but of course it is not going to be a "white knight". We need renewable energy development, and its imperative that we do it right. Right now we don't know what the hell we're doing - we have no plan - we're at the whim of the large developers and decisions are being made behind closed doors with little regard for the public interest.

Anonymous: I'm not sure what your point is, you are rather incoherent. Of course RoR has been around for a long time; Thanks for the news flash. What does the ALR have to do with energy development? The Bute has roads in it already, but they are overgrown and deactivated and would have to be upgraded from 150 ton to 300 ton for the project, not to mention 17 river diversions, 443 km of transmission lines, 267 km of roads, and 142 stream crossings. Anyways, this is not just about Bute - this problem is province-wide.