Nelson-Creston MLA and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall announced Wednesday the provincial government has asked the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) to begin reviewing the Site C project.
“Our government is delivering on our commitment to British Columbians by ordering an independent review of Site C to ensure we can keep hydro rates affordable,” Mungall said to the media Wednesday.
“The previous government refused to allow our independent energy watchdog to examine the project to determine if it was in the public interest,” added Mungall.
“That was wrong. We’re sending this project to the BCUC to ensure we make the right decision for B.C. families.”
Construction on the $8.8-billion Site C project was started by the previous government in July 2015 without the independent regulatory oversight of the BCUC.
Specifically, through the review’s terms of reference, the BCUC has been asked to:
- Confirm whether or not BC Hydro is on target to complete Site C on budget and by 2024, and;
Provide advice on implications for ratepayers associated with:
- proceeding with the project;
- suspending the project, while maintaining the option to resume construction until 2024; and
- terminating the project, remediating the site and proceeding with other resource portfolios that provide the same level of benefits at the same or lower cost as Site C.
The BCUC will be guided by the understanding that the review is not a reconsideration of decisions made during the environmental assessment process, by statutory decision makers, or in the courts.
Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, responded to the news that the NDP minority government has referred the Site C dam for review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
“I’m glad that the BC NDP have laid out a process that will ensure that Site C finally receives an independent review,” said Weaver. “The BC Liberals should have sent this project for review from the get-go to determine whether it was in the interests of British Columbians. It is simply reckless to spend $9 billion of public money without proper due diligence. According to estimates the cost could be as high as $12 billion."
Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association said workers must be thinking that six months from now they may not have a job.
"Site C was reviewed for three years by an independent panel. BC Hydro spent a decade planning for the project. The provincial and federal levels of government both approved the project. It's now 20 per cent complete."
The terms of reference require the BCUC to consult with interested parties. Additionally, for the purpose of this review and obtaining stakeholder input, the BCUC may seek and employ expert advice on various subjects and employ any or all of the powers provided to it under the Utilities Commission Act.
The review will begin on Aug. 9, 2017. The terms of reference specify a preliminary report from the BCUC within six weeks (by Sept. 20, 2017), and a final report within 12 weeks (by Nov. 1, 2017).
The BCUC is a regulatory agency responsible for oversight of energy utilities and compulsory auto insurance in the province of British Columbia. It is the BCUC’s role to balance the interests of customers with the interests of the businesses it regulates. The BCUC carries out fair and transparent reviews of matters within its jurisdiction and considers public input where public interest is impacted. The BCUC operates under the Utilities Commission Act.