VANCOUVER, B.C. – The BC Hydro Ratepayers Association is challenging the decision by Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc to issue a permit that will allow construction and operation of the Site C Dam in federal court.
The Ratepayers Association contends that LeBlanc neglected to properly consider and assess the social, economic, and environmental costs by the project. The group also says that the Minister failed to look at alternative means of energy production that would serve the public interest by avoiding harm to fish, fish habitat and fisheries, and avoid violating of the rights of Treaty 8 First Nations.
The Ratepayers Association points to the Fisheries Act, which they say requires the Minister to consider a number of important factors prior to authorizing such permits, including: the contribution of the impacted fish to Aboriginal fisheries; fisheries management objectives; alternatives that would avoid harm; and the public interest.
“Hydro’s demand forecasts are persistently and systematically wrong,” said former Joint Review Panel chair Dr. Harry Swain in an affidavit filed in Federal Court. “There is no reason to believe that much new power, if any, will be required in the next 20 to 30 years [in BC]. But if there is, there are several alternatives available which are markedly less expensive and less damaging to Aboriginal interests, fisheries and the environment generally, than Site C.”
The Joint Review Panel concluded that “justification must rest on an unambiguous need for the power, and analyses showing its financial costs being sufficiently attractive as to make tolerable the bearing of substantial environmental, social, and other costs.”
Dr. Swain stated that, “The Panel’s Terms of Reference and subsequent Ministerial directives required the acceptance of all formally stated public policy … and restricted the JRP from considering issues of … relevance to assessing the public interest.” According to Dr. Swain, neither the federal nor the provincial government contacted the panel for clarifications.
The BCHRA concludes that the issuance of the Fisheries Act permit to allow Site C construction ignores the Joint Review Panel’s findings and critical information, and violates environmental and indigenous rights guaranteed by Canadian law.
Dr. Swain noted that falling market prices since the Joint Review Panel’s 2014 report, have significantly reduced the business case for Site C, stating “BC Hydro can be expected to lose vast sums of money on the project for many years.”
The group says that the court action was made necessary, because building and operating the proposed dam does not serve the public’s interest, violates Treaty rights and will greatly reduce fish populations in the Peace River and other affected waterways.