Public Values

Urgent call for action to stop sale of BC's rivers

Private run-of-river power projects sidestep public, environmental accountability.

Urgent call for action to stop sale of BC rivers from the Council of Canadians.May 4, 2009 — The note below is a URGENT CALL FOR ACTION for endorsement of a statement by the Council of Canadians opposing private power projects in BC. The privatization of BC's electricity sector has been a crucial issue in the upcoming provincial election, threatening affordable public services in BC as well as the province's precious natural resources, wilderness, and wildlife.

The Council of Canadians is seeking endorsements from environmental organizations, community groups, labour unions, faith based organizations, citizens groups, social justice groups, etc.

BC Citizens for Public Power's mandate closely corresponds to the statements issued by the Council of Canadians. The organization and its associated BC Guardians campaign have endorsed the statement. We urge you to do the same:

Unity in Opposition to Private Power Projects

We, the undersigned organizations and community groups, believe in achieving green energy policy by promoting a vision of a sustainable community that includes democracy, accountability, conservation and community based public power. Therefore, we oppose the development of private power projects (also known as "independent power projects" or IPPs or "run of the river") on BC rivers. We oppose these projects based on the following principles:

1. Environmental protection requires ecological protection

Private power projects have been promoted as a "green energy" solution to climate change by the current government, the industry and other supporters. These projects are marketed as "green" when in reality they depend on the clear cutting of forests, ecological disruption, possible damage to fish and wildlife habitat, and a large carbon footprint resulting from the construction, maintenance and operation of these projects. Diverting free flowing water through pipes and tunnels cannot be considered good for the eco-systems of watersheds. Most British Columbians clearly understand that eco-systems of local watersheds cannot be sacrificed to the private power gold rush that has been created by current policies.

2. Privatization of energy production and rivers are not green energy options

Developing green energy alternatives should not be restricted to the private sector. Private companies prioritize profits for shareholders over environmental and community interests; the success of their operation is measured by revenue, and revenue is generated by energy consumption, not conservation. Public or community owned and operated alternatives represent the best opportunity to serve the public interest by demonstrating leadership in green energy generation, environmental protection, and energy conservation.

3. Communities must be both ecologically and economically sustainable.

The power that will be generated from these private power projects is designated for export. Under NAFTA, the supply of this power to markets in the United States is the driving force behind current policies to develop these private power projects. Markets should not determine energy policy as they foster an unsustainable, gold rush-like approach. Communities throughout BC have been suffering due to boom and bust cycles and indigenous communities in particular have long suffered from systemic discrimination leading to poverty and other crises.

Clearly economic support for these communities is needed but private power mega-projects are not a solution. While industry is promoting some profit sharing models, private power projects will still result in the flight of capital from local communities in the form of corporate profits and finances which should be democratically managed by and re-invested into communities.

Publically funded alternatives that could provide community control and ownership are being blocked by policy in order to support private interests. Public-community partnerships can provide democratic ownership and control of alternative energy production with a focus on local needs, minimizing ecological impacts and providing community reinvestment. Such models allow for the creation of truly sustainable public jobs that shift away from a fossil fuels based economy. Private "run of the rivers" power projects are not a real alternative as they do not provide an economically or ecologically sustainable model.

Please include name and location of organization/group and forward all endorsements to hgrewal@canadians.org.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
BC public employees join call for moratorium on private run-of-river power, Public Values, May 1, 2009

Links and sources
  Council of Canadians website
  BC Citizens for Public Power website

Posted: May 07, 2009

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