BY BILL PHILLIPS
Judging by the reaction of the crowd, the majority of those at the Site C inquiry in Prince George Friday are opposed to the project.
Loud cheers greeted presenters who urged the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) panel to reject the $8.3 billion project, already underway. However, there were those to voiced support for the project, including Mike Davis regional vice-president of the Independent Businesses and Contractors Association.
“I’m here in support of the project,” he told the four-person BCUC panel. “The preliminary report indicates the project is being well-managed by BC Hydro. It’s on track to finish ahead of schedule.”
He said the taxpayers would be on the hook for about $4 billion should the project be cancelled. He added with an expected increase in electricity demand in the future, the Site C hydroelectric dam is a good way to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
Nadia Nowak, who was one of four people outside the inquiry carrying signs against Site C, said she has travelled the area does not want the dam to proceed.
“I have deep concerns about the social, cultural, and environmental impacts of Site C,” she said, recognizing the limited scope of the panel which is provide government 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.
“Why is BC Hydro projecting an increase in energy demand while over the past 10 years energy demand has been flat and is expected to continue,” she asked. “… We are currently exported 90 per cent of the power than Site C is expected to produce, why wouldn’t we use more of this power than Site C which is more expensive.”
She urged the commission to conduct an analysis of the jobs Site C provides and those it puts at risk in the immediate area and across the province with potential increases to hydro rates.
Don Williams, of All North Consulting which has done work on the Site C, project, spoke in favour the project.
“We’ve been in the Site C project since 2014,” he said. “To date, All North has spent about 40,000 man-hours of work on the project, which has resulted in revenue for our company of about $4.6 million.”
He added they expect about another $10 million in revenue from the project, which in the scheme of the $8.3 billion project, isn’t much, but for All North is huge.
Michelle Connolly talked about the “true” costs of the project.
“BC Hydro has been reducing its efforts to address the consumption of electricity of power it produces through programs like PowerSmart,” she said. “This is a big problem. We need to be placing more emphasis on managing the demand for energy by households, institutions, and industry before we consider spend money on power projects that have massive ecological impacts.”
She added the commission should also place a cost on the loss floodplain forest, food production, and carbon storage. By not doing so, puts those values a zero, she said.
“This is simply bad accounting,” she said. “If we put a value to what will be lost with the completion of this project, we might find that terminating is the best option.”
Erin Bauman of the Sea to Sands Society said the society is concerned about the impact on Indigenous people of the area.
“(They are) still living with and experiencing the profound and deeply harmful impacts of the flooding the Williston reservoir,” she said.
She said they do not believe the Site C dam is an economically sound project and “will not contribute to the long term economic well-being of northern communities or province as a whole.”
She also talked about how the province’s energy demand has not increased over the past decade and questioned the need for bringing on more power production when the demand isn’t there.
About 100 people attended session in Prince George with about 25 people making presentations to the commission panel.
The inquiry panel moves to Fort St. John Saturday.
Listen to some of the presentations: