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Ashlu Run of River Facility

Ashlu Run of River Facility

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

The political situation in British Columbia is such that no one seems capable of winning and both sides seem quite capable of losing.

This unique situation usually leads to an opportunity to “come up the middle” meaning I would think the BC Green Party.

I consider myself a “Green” but cannot believe that Dr. Andrew Weaver is able to lead them to success. I have nothing personal against Dr. Weaver, whom I’ve never met.

In my opinion, Dr. Weaver has badly mishandled the Independent Power Producers, that it goes to the very root of Green philosophy and that he continues to do so. The judgment, of course, is yours but let me lay my case before you.

Let’s go back to 2007-8 when the 2003 Gordon Campbell Energy Plan became a reality, giving the sole right to make power, save Site C, to the private sector spawning the Independent Power Producer (IPP) and an unbelievable sweetheart deal forced upon BC Hydro to these IPP’s.

The Campbell government came out with a “run of river” ( RofR) policy where these private producers would be tiny little “mom and pop” operations, there would be no damage or interference with the “run of the river” itself, and no damage to the environment. I accepted the solemn assurances of then Finance Minister Colin Hansen, especially since Dr. David Suzuki was pronouncing this as clean green power.

My epiphany came in the end of 2007 when a well known environmentalist asked me the question I should have asked myself, namely “Rafe, do you know what the hell you’re talking about?”.

Shortly into 2008 there was a proposal to make seven tributaries of the Pitt River into RofRs. This got my attention because I’d fished there couldn’t imagine this being done without destroying fish runs. It was another IPP project and its “mom & pop” operator was Northwest Cascade Power Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Run of River Power Inc., a publicly traded company listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol ROR.

I received a call from Tom Rankin, a rancher on the Ashlu River (easily accessible just north of Squamish), asking me have coffee with him and Damien Gillis, a brilliant outdoors documentary maker and now publisher of The Common Sense Canadian. Rankin, his organization, Save Our Rivers Society, and Gillis were fighting against the Pitt project and he asked me to speak at a protest meeting and gave me a thorough rundown on what the project would do.

I made the speech and then learned the full story of the Ashlu and went to see this little “mom and pop” operation harmlessly making a bit of power on this babbling brook.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The entire river, and river it is, was blocked, save for a trickle, and moved by enormous pipe through the power plant. The trickle, which a child could tell was inadequate, was left for spawning and other migratory fish. A substantial road was in place as were transmission lines. The entire ecology had been devastated by Innergex Renewable Energy,  another little “mom & pop” operation  described as “a developer, owner and operator of run-of-river hydroelectric facilities, wind energy, and solar farms in North America.” While many of the firm’s operational assets are located in its home province of Québec, it has expanded into Ontario, British Columbia, and Idaho.

There was no doubt that these IPP’s were hugely destructive of substantial watercourses by construction and operation by large companies, General Electric being one, who made immense profits at public expense borne by BC Hydro. At that point, mid 2008, it was impossible for Rankin, Damien, Joe Foy and the Wilderness Committee or me, now the paid Official Spokesman for Save Our Rivers Society, to believe this could be “clean, green energy” as Dr David Suzuki had apparently declared. We wondered if Dr Suzuki had been to the Ashlu?

In fact, I ask now – David, had you actually seen the Ashlu, just north of Squamish, before making your pronouncement or were you perhaps quoted wrongly or out of context? Can any power produced this way be fairly called “Green”?

In 2007-8, IPP power was touted by Campbell and IPPs as a better substitute than the brief use of the Burrard Thermal Plant when BC Hydro was short of power. Nonsense! Utterly ruining these rivers could never be justified because of the tiny carbon impact of occasional use of Burrard Thermal.

But, said Campbell and his IPP cronies, we will need that power, better safe than sorry!

Sorry folks, bullshit!  All independent assessments showed a reduction if anything in demand and besides, Campbell had approved Site C which would have us wallowing in energy without anyone to sell it to!

The plain facts, open to any who cared to open their eyes and read, were clear about three things – IPP power was hugely destructive environmentally, the sweetheart deal Campbell forced on Hydro with the IPPs was financially ruinous and the power wasn’t needed and never would be. Clearly, this power couldn’t remotely be called “Green”.

When Dr. Andrew Weaver, in 2009, decided to support the Campbell Energy Plan, he had every opportunity to see the first finished IPP,  the Ashlu, for himself just as the rest of us did, but he didn’t bother. If he had, he couldn’t possibly have approved the Liberal environmental nightmare and financial boondoggle as he did in the 2009 and 2013 election, and still does in July 2016 even when he’s seen irrefutable proof that we who looked and got some figures were thoroughly vindicated and then some.

After Dr. Weaver, now a Green Party MLA, became its leader in 2015, the Liberals’ IPP policy, having since been utterly discredited, came back into focus and Weaver appeared on CFAX 1070 on December 17, 2015 to face Ian Jessop who put it directly, in Ian’s style, that the Liberal IPP policy had turned out to be an environmental catastrophe and Weaver sprang to its defense, blaming environmental problems on the Liberals’ failure to enforce proper standards. The trouble was, no standards had been set by the time Dr Weaver campaigned for the Liberals in support of the IPP policy, or any time for that matter. The Ashlu was there to see. The environmental damage was brutal.

I put the issue squarely to Dr Weaver on these pages and Damien and I received lots of abuse, I from an aide on the phone, Damien by an amazing attack by Weaver himself on Facebook, of all places. What we did not receive was any indication that Green Party policy on IPP’s would change.

Last week, Dr David Suzuki, a supporter of the Green Party, publicly questioned the blanket assertion that hydro power was clean saying in an article he wrote in the Georgia Strait July 12 last  “But how “green” is hydropower, and how viable is it in a warming world with increasing water fluctuations and shortages? To some extent, it depends on the type of facility.”

I publicly asked Dr. Weaver if this altered the Green Party’s position on IPPs, knowing what he now knew?

His reply, opening with a patronizing sneer, stated Green Party policy thusly:

“I quite clearly stated that small scale hydro can provide some of the most environmentally friendly means of generating electricity IF it is done in a properly regulatory environment. The problem with the BC Liberal approach to small scale hydro is the same as the problem with their approach to mining and forestry as well. They believe fundamentally in the professional reliance model and that government should stay out of the way and only apply tokenism in the area of compliance and enforcement. I, and the BC Greens believe that the role of government is to protect public resources. It is our duty to provide the regulatory environment and compliance/enforcement capacity to ensure that strict standards are maintained.”

In short, The Greens support IPPs if strict standards, as yet unstated a nearly a decade after Weaver supported the Campbell IPP policy, are applied yet he attached no such conditions on that support. There is no evidence he has complained since about enforcing these non existent rules and he offers none of his own with any explanation as how he would enforce them.

The distinguished publication Watershed Watch defines “run of river” projects as having these characteristics –

“A dam to create a small reservoir (known as a headpond),
A pipeline or tunnel (known as a penstock) that can be several kilometres long to deliver water from the headpond to the turbines,
A powerhouse building, to house the generators,
A tailrace channel through which the diverted water is returned to the river,
Access roads to the headpond and powerhouse,
Transmission lines from the powerhouse to the nearest BC Hydro transmission line, and
In some cases, an electrical substation.”

Each project leaves a “diversion reach” – the section of river between the dam and the powerhouse that water has been diverted from.

Can Dr. Weaver kindly explain what strict standards the Green Party would put in place and enforce to prevent environmental damage by such an animal?

At no time does Dr. Weaver express the slightest concern that the IPP policy he supported without qualification in the last two elections and still does, is, as predicted, hugely destructive of the envitonment, bankrupting our public power company, BC Hydro.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it so well, “foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds”.

Dr Weaver, let me put this straight. You approved this Campbell/Clark IPP policy sight unseen, without checking the Ashlu where horrific environmental damage was obvious, without getting sound economic advice on how it would impact BC Hydro, without any investigation or complaint on either score since, and without formal consultation with Green Party members.

Why should voters concerned for the environment vote for the Green Party while you lead it?

5 Responses to “IPP’s are a black mark against the Greens, Dr. Weaver”

  1. Gary says:

    Weaver is a fail. He has managed to bullshit his way into an MLA POSITION BUT IS bad FOR bc… HE SOUNDS LIKE A WANNABE LIBERAL… Greens suck in BC……

  2. Brian Fisher says:

    Dead on Rafe.
    And now the Green Party (Weaver) proposes developing energy alternatives by offering “sweetheart” PPP deals to IPPs for solar, and wind energy.
    Where is WAC when we need him ?
    Giving away the provinces assets through sweetheart IPP deals is wrong whether it is to General Electric, Exxon, Petronas or Siemens.
    The end does not justify the means.
    I’m sure that the beneficiaries of these “sweetheart contracts” will- as did the Campbell set – make appropriate donations to the party – but that doesn’t justify the giveaway.

  3. […] In fact, prior to his decision in 2009 to support the Campbell Energy Plan and its IPP program, Dr. Weaver didn’t bother to visit the easily accessible Ashlu River project, all but completed, to see for himself what an ecological catastrophe but baldly stated IPP energy to be “clean and green”. Even as recently as this month Dr. Weaver declared to me that IPPs were merely waterwheels! […]

  4. […] In fact, prior to his decision in 2009 to support the Campbell Energy Plan and its IPP program, Dr. Weaver didn’t bother to visit the easily accessible Ashlu River project, all but completed, to see for himself what an ecological catastrophe but baldly stated IPP energy to be “clean and green”. Even as recently as this month Dr. Weaver declared to me that IPPs were merely waterwheels! […]

  5. Donovan says:

    Run of river power projects are an important energy source for many rural and indigenous communities. The BC Liberals have created a terrible reputation for run of river power producers. Done properly ROR power draws at most 25% of a creek or river. Rafe, given that you have such harsh words for Dr. Weaver, what do you think of the BC Liberals support for Site C and the BCndp’s flip flopping on it? BC greens have been clear that Site C is beyond dumb.

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