Thursday April 24, 2014

Province plays by its own rules

The proposed Site C project on the Peace River will be the largest hydroelectric project in the province in decades and the third dam on what was once one of Canada’s mightiest rivers.

This week marked the start of hearings in Fort St. John by a joint-review panel. The Northeast has already been exploited for decades to provide power: hydroelectricity for B.C. and export to other provinces and the United States; for natural gas markets across North America; and now through proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG)
export to Europe.

Opponents of the project — which would drown an 83-kilometre stretch of the Peace River valley, including prime farmland and wildlife habibat in a stunningly beautiful corner of the province — have questioned whether the power is really needed and whether it could come from alternative sources.

But the chairman of the panel, Harry Swain, noted this week that alternatives — natural gas-fired power, for example — are “constrained” by the province’s Clean Energy Act. That act dictates that at least 93 per cent of energy need in this province must be generated here.

The sources for that energy include hydroelectric, solar, geothermal or wind.

The act introduced under then-premier Gordon Campbell didn’t include natural gas as one of the clean sources of energy because it is not sustainable.

But the B.C. Liberal government of Premier Christy Clark conveniently swept that aside last year when it determined natural gas is clean energy under the act, after all — except when it isn’t.

The redefinition under the act only applies to natural gas used for LNG — the government’s

No. 1 priority. Manufacture of LNG requires tremendous amounts of energy — energy that is wasted and contributes to global warming.

The joint review panel appears indeed to be constrained in any quest to look at some alternatives to Site C by the province’s rules — rules that it conveniently relaxes when needed for its own objectives.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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