First Nations Energy Strategy

First Nations Energy Strategy

June 23, 2015 15:00 ET

BC First Nations New Clean Energy Strategy Condemns Site C

BC First Nation Chiefs Join Forces to Push For Clean Energy in the Province

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - June 23, 2015) - A new coalition of First Nations communities is advancing a clean energy strategy that will put British Columbia at the forefront of renewable energy generation in Canada, while accommodating Aboriginal rights and title and protecting BC's environment.

"We see BC taking responsibility for its people, the environment and the global climate by choosing to derive all new electricity generation from clean energy as we define it: from renewable resources with the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations," said Garry Feschuk, councillor and heriditary chief of the shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation.

Feschuk, winner of a 2014 BC Aboriginal Business Award, said a number of First Nations are concerned that the Province is falling short in its duty to consult and accommodate First Nations interests, while at the same time approving energy developments that will worsen, not improve, BC's environmental performance.

The coalition, which includes the Sliammon, Klahoose, Sts'ailes and shíshálh Nations, demands the Province reconsider its decision to approve the Site C dam on the Peace River, "in view of the impact on the environment and on First Nations rights, in view of the lack of demonstrated need, and in view of the existence of clean energy alternatives that pose less financial risk."

In a joint statement, the coalition members - who have taken a leadership role in clean energy developments in their territories in the past decade - also conclude that BC's definition of LNG as a "clean or renewable resource" runs counter to the Clean Energy Act.

"In recent years the decisions made by the Provincial government and BC Hydro regarding clean energy are moving the province further away from our vision: the development of clean energy as we define it, with our participation," said Feschuk, upon the release of a Clean Energy Plan for First Nations and British Columbia.

"Site C would not generate clean energy as we define it," the plan says. "It would be more prudent and quite likely less costly for the Province to meet its need for power by adding incremental capacity developed by independent power producers, among whom we count ourselves, as power is needed."

The plan identifies renewable energy resources as including biomass, biogas, geothermal, heat, hydro, solar, ocean and wind.

"We do not consider natural gas or other fossil fuels to be sources of clean energy. Nor do we consider hydro projects that are built without the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations to be sources of clean energy."

As for LNG, whose extraction, pipeline transportation and liquefaction is a cornerstone of BC's energy development agenda, coalition members advocate that "BC hold to its intent to have the industry supply 'the cleanest natural gas that is produced for export anywhere in the world' by mandating the use of electric drive compressors that in turn run on a combination of new renewable power, existing British Columbia grid electricity, and efficient combined-cycle natural gas generators."

To not do so, the coalition says, "represents a missed opportunity to indeed make BC's LNG industry the cleanest in the world, as the Premier once vowed it would be, and as she accordingly instructed her Ministers."

In addition to calling for the cancellation of Site C and for significant changes to the Province's LNG development strategy, the coalition calls for:

  • Improvements to the Integrated Resource Planning process that guides energy development in the Province, but has yet to properly and comprehensively accommodate First Nations interests
  • Changes to the Standing Offer Program to more explicitly advantage First Nations equity participation in successful and economically beneficial clean energy projects
  • Greater access to capital for First Nations to participate in energy developments on their territories
  • Clean energy proposal calls that follow clean energy principles:
    • Resources include biomass, biogas, geothermal, heat, hydro, solar, ocean and wind
    • Demonstrate free, prior and informed First Nation consent
    • Offer equity opportunities for First Nations and rural communities
    • Are framed in regional strategies to ensure cumulative impact can be assessed, minimized, mitigated, and compensated
    • Transmission lines are developed and maintained in a coordinated manner

Through title-based decision-making, the coalition envisions BC First Nations implementing their own environmental assessment processes that address and manage cumulative effects and improve monitoring and compliance, thereby benefiting all British Columbians. "We call on the First Nations of this province, and all British Columbians, to join us as we put forward our clean energy vision to the government," the coalition says. It also points out that these issues are not of concern only to First Nations, but to all British Columbians. "The public is best served if BC's electricity needs are fulfilled incrementally by clean energy projects rather than by embarking on a mega-project that will inundate the fertile plains of the Peace River Valley. If BC is to host an LNG industry, then let us hold the Premier to her promise to make it the cleanest in the world. First Nations in British Columbia will work with each other and with all those who support us to ensure that our lands and waters are protected, that our resources are developed responsibly and that the benefits of development are distributed fairly."

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