Nov 17, 2011

Joint Press Release – PVEA, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club

(Fort St. John, BC) The process for assessing the impacts of BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam on the Peace River is biased against those who would challenge the dam, charge environmental groups. This allegation follows the receipt by the Peace Valley Environment Association (PVEA) of an e-mail from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) advising that a maximum of only $19,000 will be made available to any group wishing to participate in the environmental assessment.

A Joint Review Panel Process will conduct hearings on behalf of both CEAA and the BC Environmental Assessment Office. “Effective participation requires hiring experts who can review BC Hydro’s studies and hold them accountable,” says Andrea Morison, Coordinator for PVEA, which successfully prevented two previous attempts to get the dam approved. “This will cost us tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, something we, as a small, largely volunteer group, cannot afford” she adds.

The estimated cost of the construction of the dam, which is proposed for the Peace River upstream from Fort St. John, has grown dramatically to almost $8 billion. However, on November 10th a CEAA official notified PVEA that each group wishing to engage in the environmental assessment is limited to a maximum of $19,000 in funding for the entire process.

“There is a long history of vocal public opposition to Site C,” says Tria Donaldson of the Wilderness Committee. “The paltry funding CEEA has set aside for non-profits is totally insufficient – it appears clearly designed to silence the very valid and very serious concerns of non-profit groups,” she adds.

George Heyman, Executive Director of Sierra Club BC says “This proposal is huge in both scope and controversy; there are major questions regarding the intended end-use of Site C power, loss of significant agricultural land and species habitat, and impacts on First Nations and local communities. The presentation of alternatives deserves to be enabled, not hobbled, as part of an open public process” he adds.

“Very clearly, there is no intention by government to allow for truly effective or fair public participation in this three year environmental assessment process,” states Morison. “We need money to hire experts to advise and represent us at the hearing, to review and critique BC Hydro’s studies, and to put forward our own vision for the future of the Peace River Valley. $19,000 is simply not nearly enough,” Morison adds.

“An effective and fair environmental assessment requires that federal and provincial decision-makers hear both BC Hydro’s experts as well as experts with alternative opinions,” notes Wendy Francis, Program Director for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), an organization concerned about the impacts of a third hydro reservoir on the Peace on the ability of large mammals to move through the region. “With such a paltry sum available to non-profit groups wanting to participate, the evidence presented to the panel will hugely favor BC Hydro’s case,” Francis adds.

For more information contact:

Andrea Morison, Peace Valley Environment Association, 250.785.4711

Wendy Francis, Program Director, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, 403.763.8633

Tria Donaldson, Wilderness Committee, 250.686.9249

George Heyman, Sierra Club BC, 604.312.6595