Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council, Okanagan Nation Alliance & Upper Nicola Indian Band

February 22, 2011 16:48 ET

First Nations argue legal challenge to BC Hydro's transmission line

First Nations argue legal challenge to BC Hydro's new $600 million transmission line

Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor VANCOUVER, BC, NEWS RELEASE--(Marketwire - Feb. 22, 2011) - The fate of the environmental assessment certificate authorizing BC Hydro's proposed new high voltage transmission line from Merritt to the Lower Mainland is now in the hands of the B.C. Supreme Court. Legal arguments were heard in Vancouver February 8 - 15, 2011 in the Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council's, Okanagan Nation Alliance's and Upper Nicola Indian Band's challenge to the Province's approval of BC Hydro's proposed Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line project. Mr. Justice Savage is now considering the case and will issue a decision as soon as possible.

The ILM Project is BC Hydro's biggest transmission line project in over three decades. Slated to cost $600 million, the project will add a third 500 kV line to parallel two existing 500 kV lines that run from the Nicola substation near Merritt to the Lower Mainland. Since its beginning, the Project has been set back by legal challenges by the NNTC, ONA and UNIB who have won two rulings on the issue of BC Hydro's consultation regarding the Project. In February, 2009 the BC Court of Appeal ruled that the BC Utilities Commission had to consider whether the BC Hydro had met the Province's constitutional duty to consult NNTC, ONA and UNIB before issuing a permit for the Project, and in February, 2011 the BCUC ruled that BC Hydro had not adequately consulted with First Nations. The BCUC ordered BC Hydro to undertake further consultation, and in an unprecedented ruling required BC Hydro to address First Nations' interests in sharing revenues from the line. The BCUC authorization for the Project remains suspended and the Project cannot move ahead until consultations are completed.

The recently concluded BC Supreme Court hearing is a challenge to the Environmental Assessment Certificate issued in June, 2009 for the Project. Liberal Ministers Mike de Jong, George Abbott, Barry Penner and Richard Neufeld (now a Senator) had promised to consult with the NNTC, ONA and UNIB regarding the impacts to Nlaka'pamux and Okanagan Aboriginal title and rights from the full system - the existing substation and two 500 kV lines as well as the new line - but did not deliver on their promise before approving the Project. The NNTC, ONA and UNIB were forced to file law suits in September, 2009 challenging the EAC and seeking to hold the Province to its promise.

The NNTC represents Nlaka'pamux Nation Aboriginal title and rights, including the Nlaka'pamux community of Spuzzum which is located in the Fraser Canyon north of Yale. "BC Hydro has cut Nlaka'pamux territory into pieces with all its transmission lines, substations, access roads and facilities" said Chief Bob Pasco, Chair of the NNTC. "We need to have the impacts to our people from the existing ILM lines considered and addressed before the system is expanded with a new line. We thought we'd made progress with the Province when two Ministers gave us written promises to consult regarding the existing and new line in October 2008 and February 2009, but now we're forced to sue the Province to have that promise honoured."

The ONA represents seven member Bands of the Okanagan Nation, including Upper Nicola. "We have had to go to court three times to hold the Province to its legal duties" said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chairperson of the ONA and President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. "The Province committed through the New Relationship to pursue a relationship with Aboriginal peoples based on respect and recognition, but the Province's actions on the ILM Project fall far short of that promise.

UNIB reserves are located in close proximity to the large Nicola substation, which takes up lands used by the Okanagan Nation for hunting, fishing and other traditional uses. "Our people have been impacted by this system since it was built in the 1960s and '70s" said Chief Tim Manuel of Upper Nicola, "and there has never been any consultation or accommodation. We as Okanagan people are clear that this system cannot be expanded until the Province has honoured its promise to sit down with us and address the full impacts of the system - the Nicola substation, two existing lines and proposed third line - to our Aboriginal title and rights."
/For further information: Chief Tim Manuel, Upper Nicola Band (250) 378-1986; Chief Bob Pasco, Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council (250) 371-0775; Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair, Okanagan Nation Alliance (250) 490-5314/ IN: ECONOMY, ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, POLITICS, OTHER

Contact Information

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    Primary Phone: 250-378-1986