Davis: Suzuki has "had his concerns heightened by the allegations made by the opponents."

Independent Power Producers Association of BC president Steve Davis said yesterday his industry would support increased government scrutiny of the cumulative impact of independent power projects. But he disagreed with prominent environmentalist David Suzuki's suggestion that there needs to be a better system for distributing water licenses and Crown land licenses.

In his most recent column, Mr. Suzuki wrote even though an individual independent power project may seem environmentally benign, the "cumulative impact of many could be detrimental."

In response, Mr. Davis said his industry would "broadly" support having government take a closer look at those impacts, which are already reviewed by the federal environmental assessment process.

"Environmental regulations can always be tweaked and improved somewhat," he stated. "It's a matter of not having too many layers of overlapping reviews which will ultimately slowdown the movement to green energy projects."

But Mr. Davis rejected Mr. Suzuki suggestion that the distribution of water licenses and Crown land licenses needs to be improved "to avoid the gold-rush mentality that is leading numerous private interests to stake claims on rivers for power projects."

"What has happened in the last seven or eight years is there has been a significant increase in the number of projects that are being investigated and looked for around the province of B.C. And what the opponents of IPPs have been successful in doing is scaring people into being concerned about the number of applications," Mr. Davis explained.

"And, to draw a parallel, there's tens of thousands of mining claim applications in British Columbia. But there's only in the order of 50 or 60 operating mines. And so I would suggest that those that are interested in green energy and green jobs and things like that should welcome the fact there's lots of sites being looked at. But where they should appropriately be concerned is whether there's in fact a gold rush of projects that are actually getting built. And there is not a gold rush of projects getting built."

"They go through very thorough permitting and licensing review processes," Mr. Davis continued. "They have to bid and compete to win BC Hydro contracts. They have to get financing, etc. So it's unfortunate that people have confused the high number of searches versus the view number of projects getting built."

So, if that's the case, why does Mr. Suzuki - a supporter of independent power projects - believe there needs to be a better system for distributing water licenses and Crown land licenses?

"I think he's probably had his concerns heightened by the allegations made by the opponents," responded Mr. Davis. "And, as I've said, they've been successful in scaring people at looking at the front-end of the spectrum of projects rather than the back-end. He's a busy guy. He's got an international outlook. He looks at lots of different subjects."

"My sense is he's tried to understand the industry. But he may not fully appreciate the difference from the very front-end - where there's lots of activity - from the back-end. Because all of the attention has been focused on the front-end of searches."


This seems to be turning into a major election issue and rightly so. Several major questions need to be addressed and Suzuki has only started to put his finger on them:

1) Cumulative impact: A single water wheel spinning prettily as it generates green micro-power at the side of a forest stream is one thing. A dozen in a row is quite another. The environmental assessment process does NOT consider cumulative impacts and it certainly has not proven capable of effectively balancing social, economic and ecological issues, public/private or local vs. provincial or global interests. The Province has never bothered to develop a big picture planning framework to guide development in a manner that would maximize benefits and minimize impacts to local communities and British Columbians.

(And Davis damages his credibility with an analogy to mining claims that is clearly phony - people staked thousands of potential mining sites after Premier Campbell changed the costs of doing so to pennies. But they will only build mines on the rare sites where they actually find a significant and economically viable mineral deposit. There's nothing to discover with staking a stream - the water is right there waiting for extraction.)

2. Scale: Micro hydro can be green. But some of these projects are on a scale comparable to the Site C dam. And even something much smaller can have significant impact, depending on its proportion and context. The larger the relative scale, the less chance that such projects can co-exist in harmony with the natural environment and other human uses.

3. Water rights vs run-of-river projects. Where companies are applying for water rights, they're talking about extracting and keeping the water for good, not borrowing it for a few moment to spin a dynamo and then putting it right back. It's important to distinguish the two, as the impact and long-term implications are very different, and in many cases we have applications for both pending on the same systems.

4. Who benefits. If our natural resources are the patrimony of British Columbians, then one would expect a British Columbian government to govern their development in a manner that puts the interests of British Columbian first and foremost and that maximizes long-term benefits and minimizes long-term costs to the British Columbian public and local communities in all decisions. Where is the governance framework, the transparency, and the local public involvement to ensure that occurs? In the absence of clear objectives and principles, and an effective and transparent governance structure, we can expect the unseemly close links between applicants and the BC Liberal power structure to generate much turbulence in the weeks ahead. And that's to say nothing of the political donations that some are bound to see as greasing the wheels, so to speak...

The claim that B.C.’s rivers are being sold, stolen or given away for run-of-river electricity production is completely false and has been discredited time and time again. The people who make this emotional claim are either intentionally, or unintentionally, confusing water license applications with approvals for run-of-river projects: water license applications can be numerous but actual approvals for run-of-river projects are infrequent and difficult to achieve. The bar is set very high and the overwhelming majority of applications simply don’t meet the stringent environmental requirements.

More information about the pervasive myths and misinformation being spread against clean, renewable green energy projects in B.C. is available at www.greenenergybc.ca/myths.html. We also have several short videos on the subject posted on YouTube www.youtube.com/GreenEnergyBC and on our website www.greenenergybc.ca.

B.C. Citizens for Green Energy

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