Public Values

50 grassroots organizations reject energy sell-off in BC

Environmental, indigenous, community and labour groups unite against privatized "run-of-the-river" power projects.

Corporate-owned hydro dam in BC.VANCOUVER, May 7th, 2009 — Organizations and community groups from across the province have joined forces in a united front of opposition to the so-called "run of the river" private power projects or IPPs.

Much has been made about the divide among environmental groups on the issue, but grassroots opposition is very strong throughout BC communities. A broad spectrum of community groups, representatives and environmental organizations have signed on to a statement of unity which calls for a "green energy policy by promoting a vision of a sustainable community that includes democracy, accountability, conservation and community based public power." The diverse list of supporter from across BC shows the need to both protect the environment and support democratic public control of sustainable power generation. Organizers expect the list to grow significantly as the public continues to learn more about negative implications of these projects. "The run-of-river projects should more aptly be called 'ruin-of-river'," says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the United Nations General Assembly. "Granting hundreds of multi-decade contracts and 40 year water licenses to private corporations to divert rivers and run roughshod over BC's pristine wilderness simply cannot be called 'green'."

In June of 2007 the Union of BC Indian Chiefs also called for a moratorium on run-of-the-river projects. Some First Nations communities have considered partnerships with private producers but critics have argued that a public partnership should be promoted as an economically sustainable option. On April 1st, 2009 the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, in partnership with BC Hydro, put into service a hydroelectricity plant that is owned by the community. Plant manager Stuart Simpson has highlighted that money remaining in the community is a major benefit of community owned projects.

BC Citizens for Public Power has been at the forefront of the public/private power debate since 2002. Executive Director Melissa Davis said the debate has escalated in recent months, particularly in reaction to the government and industry's tactics of portraying public power supporters as anti-green. "Public power supporters are proudly 'green'," says Davis. "We support environmental protection, conservation, and renewable energy. But privately generated power is antithetical to 'green' principles."

Long time campaigners the Wilderness Committee have always known that there is a strong grassroots movement throughout the province against these projects. As Policy Director Gwen Barlee, explains, "People on the ground realize what is happening with these projects – at the moment we have a chaotic situation with low environmental standards and no provincial planning. People want green power that is democratic, sustainable and accountable – and that is not what is happening in BC at this time."

Members of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), representing 49 municipalities, passed a motion on April 5th, 2009 calling for a moratorium on run-of-the-river private power projects. The AVICC region covers some of the most impacted areas.

Petition: 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.

"Run of the River" 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.

Endorsing Organizations,Groups and Representatives:

A-Line Communications (Vancouver, BC)

Apple Tree Productions Inc

BC Citizens for Public Power

BC Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (Vancouver, BC)

BC Federation of Retired Union Members

BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)

BC Guardians

BC Peace & Global Educators, PAGE

BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF)

Blewett Conservation Society (Nelson, BC)

Burke Mountain Naturalists (Coquitlam, BC)

Canadian Office & Professional Employees Union 378 (COPE 378)

Canadian Union of Public Employees BC (CUPE BC)

Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (Williams Lake, BC)

Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Society (Mission, BC)

Citizens United to Save the Peace (Fort St. John, BC)

Community Action Coalition of Burnaby (Burnaby, BC)

Comuna of Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca (CIPO) in Vancouver

Councillor Andrea Reimer, City of Vancouver

Councillor David Cadman, City of Vancouver

Councillor Karen Rockwell, City of Port Moody

Councillor Paul McDonnell, City of Burnaby

Councillor Pietro Calendino, City of Burnaby

Councillor Sav Dhaliwal, City of Burnaby

Councillor Tom Duncan, City of Duncan

Council of Canadians

Council of Senior Citizens Organizations

Council of Senior Citizens Organizations (Sunshine Coast Branch)

Friends of Bute Inlet (Discovery Islands, BC)

Friends of Eagle River (Powell River, BC)

Golden Branch of Wildsight (Golden, BC)

Greater Victoria Water Watch Coalition (Victoria, BC)

Impact on Communities Coalition (Vancouver, BC)

Indigenous Action Movement (Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory)

Interfaith Summer Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements (Burnaby, BC)

Kelowna Citizens for Public Power (Kelowna, BC)

Kelowna KAIROS (Kelowna, BC)

Malaspina Communities for Public Power (Powell River, BC)

Mothers Against Power Poles (Delta, BC)

New Media B.C.

North Columbia Environmental Society (Revelstoke, BC)

Parksville/Qualicum KAIROS (Parksville, BC)

Pitt Polder Preservation Society (Maple Ridge BC)

Purcell Alliance for Wilderness (Argenta, BC)

Salmon Arm KAIROS Committee (Salmon Arm, BC)

Save Our Rivers Society

Secwepemc Native Youth Movement (unceded Secwepemc Territories)

Seniors For News On The Bright Side (Vancouver, BC)

Shuswap Environmental Action Society (Chase, BC)

Social Justice Group, St. James Anglican Church (Vancouver, BC)

Society Targeting Overuse of Pesticides (Victoria, BC)

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (Burnaby, BC)

Streams of Justice (Vancouver, BC)

Toxic Free Canada

Union of BC Indian Chiefs

Victoria Raging Grannies (Victoria, BC)

Watershed Watch Salmon Society (Port Coquitlam, BC)

Western Canada Wilderness Committee

Women Elders in Action (Vancouver, BC)

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Vancouver, BC)

2010 Watch (Vancouver, BC)

Links and sources
  Citizens for Public Power website

Posted: May 12, 2009

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