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Site C Dam Set to Finally Undergo Review of Costs and Demand

The controversial $9 billion Site C dam project will be sent for immediate review with the B.C. Utilities Commission if NDP Leader John Horgan becomes B.C.’s premier, according to a landmark agreement between the NDP and Greens.

The agreement outlines the terms of a power-sharing agreement as well as a path forward on key election issues, including the future of the Site C dam.

The agreement sets out a requirement to “immediately refer the Site C construction project to the B.C. Utilities Commission” to investigate the economic viability and consequences of the project for British Columbians.

During the election campaign the Greens vowed to stop the Site C project outright while the NDP committed to send the project for independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission, a body designed to regulate BC Hydro and electricity rates. The B.C. Liberals exempted Site C from utilities commission scrutiny.

At a joint press conference Tuesday, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said he and his two fellow Green MLAs negotiated strongly with the NDP caucus on the fate of the Site C project.

“We came in there very strong on Site C,” Weaver said. “We did not take this lightly.”

The Greens pressured the soon-to-be government on the exact terms of their commitment to send the project for review, Weaver said.

“We got a response that frankly was the right response we were looking for.”

Premier Christy Clark, now facing an inevitable loss of confidence in the house, vowed to push the Site C project “past the point of no return” before the election.

In response to questions, Horgan said Site C construction will not be paused while the commission evaluates the project.

Weaver noted that although construction has not been stopped families facing eviction by B.C. Hydro have been granted an extension of time on their land.

“The Boons have not been evicted from their property,” Weaver said, referring to Ken and Arlene Boon, farmers leading the fight against Site C who were facing eviction at the end of May.

Horgan said his party’s plan for the Site C dam, which requires considering lower cost options for the public, paved the way for the historic NDP-Green power-sharing agreement.

“The draft document we shared with Andrew and his team, that was I think, the foundation for what allowed us to work forward together.”

The Site C dam is the most expensive public infrastructure project in B.C.’s history. The reservoir created by the dam will flood 107 kilometres of the Peace River, destroying thousands of hectares of prized agricultural land and unique ecosystems. It has been under construction for nearly two years in what is an eight-year construction timeline.

The Site C dam is the most environmentally destructive project ever considered under the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as detailed by the federal-provincial panel tasked with reviewing the project in 2013.

That panel, chaired by Harry Swain, did not make a recommendation for or against the project because the province had failed to both investigate alternatives, such as geothermal, and to demonstrate the need for the power Site C will generate.

In a previous interview with DeSmog Canada, Swain said, “there is no need for Site C.”

“If there was a need, we could meet it with a variety of other renewable and smaller scale sources.”

The panel called on B.C. to send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission, but the province ignored that recommendation and decided to forge ahead with the project.

Image: Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan release a joint Supply and Confidence Agreement that calls for an immediate review of the Site C project, May 30, 2017. Photo: BC NDP via Flickr

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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 this spring. 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 the 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. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. 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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