SAY NO TO THE SELL-OUT OF BC RIVERS & CREEKS TO PRIVATE ENERGY CORPs
© Peter Dimitrov, January 26, 2007
STAND UP FOR PUBLIC POWER.
STAND UP FOR PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF OUR RIVERS AND CREEKS
Attached are two Summary Reports that show that the BC government has granted 'water licences for power production' on hundreds of British Columbia Rivers & creeks to private energy corporations.
These licences are for 40-year renewable terms with a very minimal royalty/rent payback to the government. They involve a massive transfer of water- energy and wealth to private corporations, some of who are positioning themselves to be merged or bought by giant U.S. energy corporations.
Prior to the election of the current government virtually all water licences for power production and all transmission lines were owned by BC Hydro and Power Authority. This 'integration' allowed British Columbia to have one of the lowest rates for electricity in all North America. Additionally, BC Hydro would often earn tens or hundreds of millions from power exports and that money was turned over to the government for other public expenditures.
The licensing of water for power production to private energy companies represents an extremely significant shift in public policy. While this 'shift' may result in more 'green energy' production, there are enormous environmental, fiscal and political implications that have received little to no examination or debate, either amongst indigenous peoples or the general public.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Despite an increased demand for electrical energy the current BC government has passed laws which prevent BC Hydro from constructing any more power projects, saying instead that BC Hydro must buy all its future power needs for BC consumers from private energy corporations. Is this reasonable, is this fair, and is this in the best public interest?
- In Alberta residential consumers buy their electrical power from private energy companies, such as EnMax Corporation, at a considerably higher prices then what is available from BC Hydro? That scenario is soon coming to British Columbia. Has the government asked you if you want to buy your electricity directly from private energy corporations at whatever price the 'continental electrical energy' market assigns to that energy? Is that what you want for yourself, your business, your children & grandchildren?
- Is it just that the enormous wealth that comes from selling the energy from our rivers & creeks be captured primarily by private corporations when there have been so many closures of schools, hospitals and community care facilities for seniors?
- Is it just that the BC government allows private corporations to make such an incredible 'bundle of money' from our rivers and creeks while there is such a high degree of poverty and homelessness in British Columbia, when there is a huge need for more public low-cost housing? Why is it that the government has decided to seek minimal payment of rents, charges and royalties from these private energy corporations? What is the public interest reasoning behind such decisions? How much money is estimated to be lost to the public treasury by such decisions?
- Is it just that legislation allows these energy corporations to sell-out to bigger United States energy corporations, which implies that our water and energy could come completely under foreign control? Is this good for BC's long-term energy security? For our children, grandchildren's future?
- Is it just that the BC government has removed all legal barriers to the export of energy produced in B.C. which implies that there is nothing to stop these companies from directly exporting the power from our rivers/creeks to the United States so as to earn a higher revenue payable in U.S. dollars?
- Has the government properly investigated the environmental impact of these private power projects on hundreds or rivers/creeks in British Columbia or has it been a 'snow-job"? These projects will involve roads into undeveloped areas, dams, pipelines, construction camps, generating stations, and a network of power lines linking up BC Transmission Corporation's transmission lines. What is the individual and cumulative effect?
- Is the broader public interest better served by having our rivers/creeks and 'green' electrical energy production under public ownership and control, or is it better served by private energy corporations?
- In low -water flow years how much of our water in those projects will be 'reserved' for power production and how much has been set aside/ 'reserved' for other needs such as wildlife, recreation, etc. ? Can the water licences be amended or upgraded to give the corporations even more rights to water?
- Why has not the facts in the Summary and the implications for British Columbia been investigated and reported in our mainstream newspaper and television media? Is it just that there is such a monopoly ownership of the mainstream media? Is that concentration of media ownership good for democracy? Why the cover-up?
- Why has not the current BC government made public the information contained in the Summary and engaged in a "Conversation on Energy' with British Columbia before allowing this sell-out? Why the secrecy?
- Why has the Water Comptroller decided NOT to hold public hearings prior to granting hundreds of water licences for power production, as he is entitled to do under the Water Act? On what basis does the Water Comptroller decide or not decide to hold a public hearing? How many instances have there been where the Water Comptroller has turned down an application for a water licence for power production from a private energy corporation? Where is the transparency, where is the accountability? Are there terms and conditions attached to those water licences, if so, what are they?
- Is it just that many of BC's private energy corporations have made significant monetary contributions to the BC Liberal party, and that their 'organization' the "Independent Power Producers" enjoy an extremely close relationship with the Premier and some Cabinet ministers? In your mind does such dealings serve to increase your trust and confidence in the practice of democracy - or not?
- When the Squamish Regional District voted twice to deny a private corporation the permission to build a hydroelectric facility on the Ashlu River, the provincial government passed Bill 30, overturning the right of local governments to legislate over local power production projects. Presently, Ledcor, a private energy corporation is building a private hydroelectric generation facility on the Ashlu River. In your mind is this just or is this an abuse of power? Is this how a democracy should function?
- Finally, ask yourself this fundamental question, who pays and who benefits from this enormous shift in 'ownership and control' of public water and energy resources? Do you think that this 'shift' will create a more just, a more equal society or does it set the conditions for still more millionaires to benefit privately. Does this 'shift' create the kind of legacy you wish to leave your children and grandchildren?
Editor's Note: This is but the first part of a three part series by lawyer and left-progressive, Peter Dimitrov. The other parts will follow here, over the coming week.