The B.C. NDP’s only Vancouver Island–based leadership candidate has said he believes the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam is unnecessary at this point in time.
“Each pulp mill or sawmill that shuts down, that’s more power that’s available to B.C. Hydro through the existing supply,” John Horgan, long-time NDP energy critic, told the Straight by phone today (January 18). “Housing starts have not been what they were projected to be in 2005-2006, so residential demand is not growing at the rate that B.C. Hydro projected. So my view is that Site C is not required at this time, and there are other potentially lower-cost, best-use options available to the corporation.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Horgan confirmed the NDP still supports a moratorium on any new run-of-river power projects. If the NDP forms government, it would review the power-purchase agreements made by B.C. Hydro and private power producers in order to ensure they are in the “public interest”, according to him.
“If it’s determined that they are not in the public interest, after the light of day has been shone upon them, then we would take action to rectify that. What that action is would depend on what the deficiencies are,” Horgan said.
Horgan noted he helped draft the energy policy of the NDP government of former premier Mike Harcourt in the mid ’90s. However, that government never reconciled the economic activity created by the dams on the Peace River with the damage done to the communities. He said the same of the industrial activity around the Nechako River.
“I would certainly be open to looking at a Peace River accord or a Nechako accord in the future,” Horgan said. “But when it comes to micro hydro, it was our position then, and it’s my position now, that if five-, 10- and 20-megawatt facilities can be established by the private sector more cost-effectively than they can be by B.C. Hydro—there are no fish implications and the generation is for local distribution and not for export to service the needs of air-conditioners and swimming pools in California—then that’s good public policy.”
Regarding the Site C dam project, Horgan said he has seen firsthand the damage done to the communities of the northeast, and wants to see a proper environmental assessment.
“They want some peace in the valley, and as long as the spectre of Site C hangs over their head, there’s never going to be a comfort level in the community,” Horgan said. “They want a full-fledged, full-on environmental assessment, so that they can put on the table the science of the sloughing, the costs of dredging, and the total costs on ratepayers of a $6- to $7- to $8- or even $9-billion project.”
Last April, Premier Gordon Campbell and then-energy minister Blair Lekstrom announced the Site C dam project would move forward to the regulatory review phase, the third stage in a five-part planning and development process.