The most recent salvo of misinformation aimed at run-of-river projects in B.C. comes from the pen of SFU’s Marjorie Griffin Cohen, and once again the salvo tracks back to the BC Citizens for Public Power group she helped found and the group’s strong ties to the COPE 378 union representing BC Hydro workers.
Cohen’s salvos are embedded in an editorial in which she endorses the Site C project—conditional, of course, on the project being 100% public sector.
Given the strong ties between COPE 378 and the “Public Power” group, Cohen’s endorsement of the Site C project isn’t much of a surprise. A public sector project like Site C is right up COPE 378’s alley.
But in rationalizing her newfound love for Site C (which she once opposed), Cohen spares no opportunity to toss misinformation at independent run-of-river projects and suggests that they do not undergo proper environmental scrutiny which is pure nonsense.
All energy projects in B.C., big or small, undergo intense environmental scrutiny. In the case of run-of-river projects, more than 50 approvals, permits, licenses and reviews from 14 government regulatory bodies are typically required before they can proceed.
Even NDP party president Moe Sihota recently said on CBC Radio’s Early Edition: “We should trust the environmental assessment process…. I helped craft the environmental assessment legislation [as an NDP cabinet minister in the 1990s] and I think you have to give the system some credit for the way it has worked in the past.”
And for every renewable energy project that manages to reach the final stages of the multi-year review and approval process, dozens of others are withdrawn or cancelled along the way due to insurmountable environmental issues.
In disparaging independent run-of-river projects, Cohen even attempts to anoint mega dams with saintly healing powers that allow them to rebuild rivers after they’ve been dammed while denying these same healing powers to run-of-river projects.
You can’t have it both ways, Marjorie. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and if rivers can rebuild themselves and establish new states of equilibrium following the construction of a mega dam project then the same must apply to run-of-river projects—and even more so considering their much smaller footprint.
Cohen’s disingenuous remarks about the proposed Bute Inlet run-of-river project, which she claims will be “much more environmentally damaging” than Site C, are particularly unsupportable. What evidence can she provide to back up her sweeping claim? Neither project has undergone an environmental assessment yet so how can she know the outcome of the review process?
Sadly, Marjorie Griffin Cohen’s disparagement of run-of-river projects is all too typical of the misinformation that’s been aimed at independent run-of-river projects in B.C. over the past few years. Will it ever cease? Will reason and facts triumph over irrationality and falsehoods? We seriously doubt it based on what we’ve seen over the past few years.
Venom from Cohen and others will no doubt flow on this issue for decades (Moe Sihota notwithstanding), just as the endless flow of water in our rivers drains out to sea every day.
Previous generations in this province understood the value and the benefits of harvesting the power and renewable energy from our endlessly flowing rivers and today we laud them for their foresight and vision. It’s time for our generation to step up to the plate and build on the past by safely harvesting the power and renewable energy our rivers present to us for the benefit of all British Columbians.
Salvos, venom and self-serving misinformation be damned!
Bruce Sanderson, Co-spokesperson
B.C. Citizens for Green Energy