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LETTER TO THE PREMIER: MP Atamanenko on Glacier Howser

Alex Atamanenko

Dear Premier Campbell:

On 24 July 2009 I submitted a letter to the Environmental Assessment Office, expressing concerns with the proposed Glacier Howser Private Hydroelectric Project.  Attached please find a copy of this submission.

An overwhelming majority of people in our area are against this project as evidenced by over 1100 people who showed up to a Environmental Assessment hearing held in Kaslo, in addition to over 450 people who attending a public meeting in Nelson.  It is my understanding that the public hearings in the Lardeau Valley and Invermere were also, almost to a person, outspoken against this project.  To my knowledge, of the many emails and letters I have received on this subject, only the proponent’s and a mining contractor’s were supportive.

The attached letter outlines many of the concerns in regard to the environment such as the impact on transmission lines on the Purcell Mountains Wilderness Area and the Old Growth Forest Management Areas.  As well, to my knowledge, there has been no study to assess the cumulative effect of the hundreds of developing and proposed Independent Power Project (IPP) infrastructures of dams, diversions and transmission lines around the Province on the many affected watersheds in rural BC, and our province’s wildlife, fish and terrestrial habitats and eco-systems.

Many constituents have also expressed their outrage at Bill 30, which basically has taken the right away from local governments to control developments that affect their communities.   Citizens in this region felt further shut out of any democratic process when the proponent for Glacier Howser refused to hold any public hearing in the nearest large population centre of Nelson.

Another area of concern that has not really been discussed in depth is the economic impact of IPP projects on our province – on utility user rates, and BC’s general treasury.  These issue needs to be addressed so that British Columbians have a clear and accurate idea of how these projects will affect our well-being over the next few decades.

It is my understanding that BC Hydro has been able to generate between $160 Million and $300 Million annually for the Province’s General Revenues by selling power when the price is high and buying when the prices are low – general revenues that help support our schools and hospitals.

According to a local hydroelectric engineer, Don Scarlett, who develops run-of-river projects and is a member of the BC Sustainable Energy Association and the Northwest Energy Coalition, the proposed BC Energy Policy deliberately creates a surplus of IPP power, which must be exported.  The larger the surplus, the less BC Hydro is able to control the timing of the exports.  Instead of exporting when the price is high (as it does now), BC Hydro will have to export at average market prices which, according to Mr. Scarlett, have been running in the 2.5 to 3.5 cent per kwh range.  Yet BC Hydro is contracting to purchase power from IPPs for about 8.5 cents per kwh, he says.  Some power may be exported to Alberta, but the larger market and transmission line capacity dictate that most of the power will go to the U.S. 

Many constituents have raised concerns about a non-reversible supply of privately-generated power to the U.S., under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, and the implications for our future energy security in the province.  Would we still be bound to supply electricity to the U.S. at the same level of increased surplus supply generated by these IPP contracts?  And what happens when the Energy Purchase Agreements end and the IPPs still hold the water licenses?   Concern has been expressed that once they end, IPPs could be free to export their electricity if they can get a better deal in the US.  What does this mean for energy security? Further, what are the implications for access to and use of the water if IPPs continue to hold the licenses? 

There is no factual basis to believe that this power will displace dirty coal-fired power in the U.S. or dirty power from Alberta, given the development of IPPs are not tied to regulations around the displacement of greenhouse gas-intensive energy generation.   It appears that our new BC energy policy is not about providing energy security for our province.  It is all about exporting power mainly to the U.S. market during the spring and early summer freshet, when prices are relatively low.  If the over 500 IPP applications are approved we will be selling off our precious energy resources to the U.S. – at a loss.  This makes no economic sense.  It is no coincidence that our former Socred cabinet minister Rafe Mair is travelling around our province to speak about this sell-off of our energy resources.  According to Mr. Mair, the import and export of our power has not been about our need for power as a province.  Nine out of the last eleven years (1995 to 2005) we have been a net exporter to the U.S. and Alberta, as in ten out of fourteen years to the U.S. (1995 to 2008).   Instead, export of power has been a conscious business decision to trade power on the spot market in order to make a profit for the people of BC.

I urge you, on behalf of all British Columbians, to put a moratorium on all IPP projects until we have a thorough open public debate that assesses the impact of IPPs on the future of our province.

Sincerely,

Original Signed by

Alex Atamanenko