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New Video: Cutting Through the Spin on the Site C Dam with Harry Swain

There are a number of arguments against the controversial Site C dam, planned for the Peace River Valley: it floods First Nations land against their consent; it will destroy prized agricultural land; it requires expropriating land from B.C. families and farmers; it will increase the cost of electricity for power B.C. doesn’t even need.

A variety of experts have also come forward to say the project wasn’t properly reviewed and that the B.C. government failed to explore alternatives to the $9 billion project — the most expensive public infrastructure project in the province’s history.

But what are the arguments for the Site C dam? And do they have any merit?

DeSmog Canada’s Emma Gilchrist met with Harry Swain, the man appointed by the B.C. government to chair the joint review panel for Site C, to discuss some of the most commonly used arguments to justify the project.

Swain is one of the most qualified experts in the country to discuss the pros and cons of the Site C dam. Watch the video below for his take. *Update: This is a new cut of the video, after the first was subject to a complaint.

Swain explains the rationale for building the dam has shifted dramatically over time, calling into question the stated need for the project.

“They started of course by saying that Site C was necessary for ordinary domestic consumption,” Swain says. “It had nothing to do with LNG at all and then the story changed a little bit as they came to realize that demand from ordinary sources was not increasing very much — in fact at all.”

“And now third we’ve seen with the, shall we say charitably, the delay in the LNG industry and its possible lack of demand for grid electricity this interesting opening to Alberta.”

Last spring Christy Clark suggested power from the Site C dam could be used to electrify the Alberta oilsands.

“Selling power to Alberta for the oilsands is a bit of a Hail Mary play, I think,” Swain says.

“There is presently not the capacity to move it, you’d have to build a lot of new transmission. The power would not be as cheap as Alberta can manufacture itself, either from its own supplies of gas or from wind, which is a big deal on the prairies.”

“If it came about, it would merely lock in a big loss.”

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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