Treaty 8 Tribal Association

Treaty 8 Tribal Association

December 17, 2014 16:16 ET

Treaty 8 Chiefs Condemn Decision to Destroy the Peace River Valley

TREATY 8 TERRITORY/FORT ST. JOHN, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Dec. 17, 2014) - The BC Treaty 8 Chiefs condemn the decision announced yesterday to destroy the Peace River Valley, despite clear evidence that cheaper and better solutions exist to meeting British Columbia's future energy needs.

The extent of the significant environmental effects identified in the Joint Review Panel Report for the environmental assessment of Site C is unprecedented. No other industrial project in Canada has ever received an approval in the face of such extensive impacts on the fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering rights of First Nations.

In order to go ahead with Site C, the Government must first establish a compelling and substantial public purpose for the Project. This purpose must be one that cannot be met through some other means. The economic benefits of proceeding with Site C must so vastly outstrip those of the alternatives as to justify the adverse environmental effects and impacts on the constitutionally protected rights of the Treaty 8 First Nations.

This is manifestly not the case. By taking advantage of low-cost resources allowable under the Clean Energy Act, there would be no need for new electricity resources in BC until 2027. Depending on the very uncertain requirements of LNG facilities and domestic load growth, new resources might not be needed until the late 2030s.

The cost estimates of Site C, on which BC Hydro's entire analysis rests, are unreliable. Last week, British Columbians were greeted with news from the Premier that the costs of Site C had risen by $600 million and Minister Bennett subsequently indicating "it could end up being more." As recently as November 12, 2014, BC Hydro affirmed to Treaty 8 analysts that the cost estimates were unchanged. That means that the Government of BC has made this decision without the benefit of any financial analysis that takes these current costs into account.

In fact, the alternatives are far cheaper and have lower impacts. The Canadian Entitlement under the Columbia River Treaty, which is the alternative nobody is talking about, is readily available to British Columbians. Totaling 1300 MW and 4,400 GWh/year, the Canadian Entitlement rivals the 1100 MW and 5,100 GWh of annual energy from Site C.

In its most recent budget, the Province projected revenues from the sale of the Canadian Entitlement to be on the order of only $160 million per year, or under 4¢/kWh. Creating an equivalent amount of electricity from Site C would cost on the order of $365 million per year. Repatriating even a fraction of the Canadian Entitlement would reduce costs by over $2 billion, compared to developing Site C.

Numerous other cost-effective alternatives are available. The geothermal resources of the Province remain unstudied, despite the acknowledgement by BC Hydro in its recent Integrated Resource Plan, of over 500 MW and 4,000 GWh/year of cost-effective geothermal resources. The costs of available wind alternatives in the Province continue to decline. Natural gas, available for limited use under the Clean Energy Act, is expected to remain affordable for decades.

For all these reasons, the Chiefs, who have asked the Federal Court to review the environmental approval of the proposed Site C dam remain firmly opposed to the project.

Relying on the findings of the Joint Review Panel, the First Nations have asserted in Federal Court that the project, if built, would infringe their Treaty rights. The federal government is required to justify such an infringement and it has clearly failed to do this.

The BC Treaty 8 Chiefs do not see yesterday's decision as a setback in their efforts to save the Peace River valley. They are resolved to defend against this unjustified infringement of their constitutionally protected Treaty rights, and are looking forward to their day in court.

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