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BC Hydro responds to Royal Society of Canada statement

VANCOUVER – BC Hydro provided a response today to a statement by the Royal Society of Canada about Site C.

The environmental assessment process for Site C concluded in October 2014. We are unable to find any record of the Royal Society of Canada having participated in the environmental assessment process for Site C. This is unfortunate since there were multiple opportunities for meaningful input during the environmental assessment. This included public-comment periods at all key stages of the process, and two months of public hearings that took place during the Joint Review Panel stage.

Similarly, we are disappointed that the Society decided to focus only on the nine-month Joint Review Panel process in its media statements, but neglected to mention the three-year federal-provincial environmental assessment process that Site C went through.

As part of the environmental assessment, BC Hydro undertook multi-year studies to identify and assess potential project effects and proposed comprehensive mitigation measures. All of this information was documented in approximately 30,000 pages in the Site C Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and associated documentation.

In addition, a Federal/Provincial Consultation and Accommodation Report documented BC Hydro's extensive consultation and engagement with Aboriginal groups. BC Hydro has been consulting and engaging with Aboriginal groups in the region since 2007. The report concluded that "…there has been meaningful consultation with the potentially affected Aboriginal groups."

Furthermore, we do not agree with the Royal Society of Canada that construction of Site C should be halted until court proceedings conclude. BC Hydro – with a mandate to meet the long-term electricity needs of its customers – has an obligation to its customers to build Site C on time and on budget. Court challenges of major infrastructure projects are not uncommon in Canada and they do not stop construction from proceeding. It is up to the courts to determine whether there is any basis to the claims made by project opponents.

While the Society emphasizes court proceedings in its statement, it did not mention that, to date, four judicial reviews of the environmental approvals of Site C have been dismissed – two in Federal Court, and two in B.C. Supreme Court. These include:

  • In July 2015, the BC Supreme Court dismissed a petition by the Peace Valley Landowner Association challenging environmental approval of Site C by the provincial government. An appeal was heard in early April 2016 and a decision on that appeal has yet to be issued.
  • In August 2015, the Federal Court dismissed an application by the Peace Valley Landowner Association challenging the federal environmental approval of Site C.
  • Also in August, the Federal Court dismissed an application by two Treaty 8 First Nations challenging environmental approval of Site C by the federal government. An appeal has been filed.
  • And in September 2015, the BC Supreme Court dismissed a petition by the two Treaty 8 First Nations challenging environmental approval of Site C by the provincial government. An appeal has been filed.

We are also disappointed that the Royal Society of Canada did not seek a balanced assessment of the Site C project. Instead, the Society chose to argue against the construction of Site C, but failed to discuss the reasons why BC Hydro and the Province believe the project to be in the public interest. These include:

  • Site C will be a source of both clean energy and dependable capacity for the BC Hydro system. The project will provide 1,100 megawatts of capacity and generate 5,100 gigawatt hours of energy per year.
  • As the third project on one river system, Site C will use water already stored behind the existing W.A.C. Bennett Dam in the Williston Reservoir to generate approximately 35 per cent of the Bennett Dam's energy, with only five per cent of the reservoir area.
  • Site C will have among the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, per gigawatt hour, compared to other electricity-generation options and significantly less than fossil fuel sources. The Joint Review Panel report stated: "Site C, after an initial burst of expenditure, would lock in low rates for many decades, and would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than any source save nuclear."
  • Site C will be a source of cost-effective power to meet B.C.'s future electricity needs. Over the first 50 years of Site C's project life, ratepayers will save an average of $650 to $900 million each year, compared to alternatives. The Joint Review Panel Report stated: "Site C would be the least expensive of the alternatives, and its cost advantages would increase with the passing decades as inflation makes alternatives more costly."
  • The project will create approximately 10,000 person-years of direct employment during construction, and about 33,000 total person-years of employment in total.
  • Site C will contribute $3.2 billion to provincial GDP during construction from the purchase of goods and services.

Finally, the Royal Society of Canada never asked to meet or talk with us about Site C. We would have been happy to provide them with information about Site C.

The Site C Clean Energy Project is a hydroelectric dam and generating station under construction in northeast B.C. The project is being built to meet long-term electricity needs in B.C. Once complete in 2024, the project will provide clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity for more than 100 years.

BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468