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At the Facebook group Save Our Rivers!, Arne Hansen asked,
WHY ARE WE TURNING OVER B.C. TO G.E ?
It’s all about that BS term Independent Power Project. Seems to me the only thing they are independent of is proper regulation. They should be called private “industrial” power projects – (PIPP) the “independent” of IPP means squat.
An excellent June 2011 editorial in local newspaper The Powell River Peak commented on oversight of independent power projects in coastal wilderness (my emphasis added):
BC’s Forest Practices Board has concluded a significant investigation into the Toba-Montrose run-of-river power project, located just north of Powell River. Its report provides an excellent blueprint for consideration of future projects.
Two organizations, Sierra Club BC and Friends of Bute Inlet, triggered the investigation [into the Toba-Montrose run-of-river power project, located just north of Powell River] because of concerns about environmental impacts, government monitoring efforts and the effectiveness of consultation. While the board doesn’t have the authority to investigate all aspects of the complaint, it did investigate logging, road building and related planning under the Forest and Range Practices Act.
The board noted that its report provides a learning opportunity to promote sound forest management for future run-of-river projects. However, it also pointed out that care should be taken when extrapolating or generalizing about results, as each run-of-river project is unique. In particular, smaller projects that do not require an environmental assessment typically undergo a less rigorous review by agencies and the public, which results in fewer legally-binding commitments to manage forest resources than were required in Toba-Montrose.
… The board also considered the general issue of how the province manages independent power projects. It found that the province has no effective way of examining or managing the environmental effects of multiple activities and projects on a landscape. Another issue the board highlighted was that government oversight was uncoordinated and unclear. The decision to proceed on any run-of-river project should be made after the most stringent environmental assessments and cumulative impact studies that are possible, as well as an assessment of where there may be lower environmental footprint alternatives for producing power. All of the most stringent environmental assessment and forest practice standards that exist should be applied to any clearing of forested land connected with any activity, including run-of-river power projects.
Now that the report has been published, the government and the public need to take a second look at what kind of environmental assessments need to be made of entire projects, including road building and transmission line clearing, before they’re given a green light. Particular attention needs to be paid to precautions that should be identified against some of the accidents that happen during construction. In Toba-Montrose, there were 100 fuel spills, all of which were cleaned up on site, and sedimentation escaping into streams, including fish bearing streams. Events like these could have much more significant risk in projects that were subject to lower environmental scrutiny than Toba-Montrose.
While British Columbians understand the need for clean power, the drive to advance independent power projects, including run-of-river developments, should not be at the expense of the environment.
This editorial is one of the clearest media statements to be found anywhere about independent power production. Congratulation to Publisher Joyce Carlson and Editor Laura Walz.