The Opposition critic for the green economy, George Heyman, has a history of supporting measures to slow the advancement of climate change.
So when the former Sierra Club of B.C. executive director visited the Georgia Straight office today, I asked him why there's such an uproar over the B.C. government's support for the $8.8-billion Site C dam, given that hydropower doesn't emit greenhouse gases.
"Everything needs to be looked at in context," replied Heyman, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview. "The problem with Site C is the Liberals went ahead and said they wanted to build it. They subjected it to environmental review by a joint review panel, but they [panellists] were expressly precluded from comparing it to other sources of power, like small-scale wind and solar, or geothermal, which is not so small-scale."
Heyman noted that the B.C. Liberal government exempted the Site C project from review by the B.C. Utilities Commission. It's an independent body that evaluates how B.C. Hydro can meet demand for electricity in the most cost-effective manner.
He also accused the government of "a little accounting sleight of hand" by dropping the estimated kilowatt-hour price of Site C power. Heyman suggested that the most appropriate approach would have been to compare the cost of other clean, green power sources to the proper price of producing Site C power based on an accurate assessment of future energy needs.
"The advantage of looking at other options is you can bring them on as needed," Heyman pointed out. "Many of the technologies are changing very rapidly. The cost of solar [power] has just dropped in a very steep, sharp curve downward."
He added that the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association recently released a paper suggesting its members could generate electricity at a competitive rate with Site C while creating more employment.
"They didn't say as the Liberals do—'Trust us,' " Heyman stated. "They said, 'Put the Site C decision on hold for a year while there's an independent assessment done of what we claim is true, and let British Columbians produce the best options.' "
He emphasized that other options might be more cost-effective and wouldn't result in First Nations' objections to the impact of a massive dam project on their traditional territories.
In addition, Heyman said that Site C must be seen in the context of the province's future need for food.
The proposed dam would be the third along the Peace River Valley and would flood approximately 5,500 hectares, including prime agricultural land.
Heyman pointed out that droughts in California have already increased the cost of produce, and the effects of climate change will only make this situation worse over the next 10 to 30 years.
"It's going to be harder and harder for us to get food from elsewhere as people focus on feeding themselves," Heyman said. "All of these factors mean that we should have had a more comprehensive review of this plan. If after such a review, the end result is this is the best option from a cost perspective and an environmental perspective, then so be it. But we have no way of knowing that and neither does any other British Columbian because the Liberals simply wouldn't subject it to that kind of independent scrutiny. And it needs to happen."