Power plant plan creating unlikely allies
The GSX Concerned Citizens Coalition (GSXCCC) has since its informal beginning in 2000 been critical of the GSX Pipeline and the gas-fired generation plants it is intended to provide fuel to. That's five years now. And we have learned a lot, and earned the respect of the NEB and BCUC for our effective and substantial contribution to the hearings we have participated in. It is however, a mark of the full spectrum of shortcomings with the gas-fired strategy, that we found reason to criticize the projects on so many grounds. We pointed out those shortcomings, at meeting after growing meeting, in town after town, and earned the approbation of Mr. Hrushowy.
Before the National Energy Board (NEB) review of GSX began, a Marine Coalition had formed out of some of the early members of GSXCCC to address marine issues with the pipeline proposal. It is an impressive coalition, as well, comprised of scientists of many stripes and even a former chair of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Another friendly breakaway: the landowners on the GSX Pipeline route decided to form their own organization, the Vancouver Island Pipeline Landowners Association (VIPLA). They formed an alliance with the (deep breath) Canadian Association of Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAPLA) and engaged a lawyer to represent their interests.
Which left the GSXCCC holding the bag on all the other issues. Just a group of local people ... from Cobble Hill, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Victoria, Vancouver, Bellingham, Seattle, San Juan-Saturna-Pender-Salt Spring Islands, and member groups like the Sierra Club of BC, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Georgia Strait Alliance, Council of Canadians.
Sure, we were and still are critical of the gas-fired strategy on many fronts. Here are two:
Our three big issues, though, and the ones our members are most passionate about are:
Solutions The bottom line is, Vancouver Island can meet its energy needs for years to come with a sustainable and balanced portfolio of initiatives:
For the record, Mr. Hrushowy, the GSXCCC has never taken a position on the pulp industry, never discussed it at any meeting, public or private, and you are flat wrong in suggesting a link between GSXCCC and groups that would shut down the pulp industry, if indeed there are any. Lots of people belong to many different things in all organizations. The membership of GSXCCC is indeed diverse, and that is a reflection of the broad range of things that are wrong with BC Hydro's gas strategy.
Thanks for the mostly positive recognition in your column, Mr. Hrushowy. "Our own GSX Concerned Citizens Coalition" feels kinda good. - Arthur Caldicott
The 252 megawatt power plant proposal that BC Hydro recently chose as the winning project to meet Vancouver Island's near term power needs is at serious risk of being stopped before anyone can begin construction. Hydro's choice for this project, and the Energy Purchase Agreement that goes with it, still needs the approval of the B.C. Utilities Commission. Hearings are scheduled to begin in Vancouver on Jan. 11 and there will be a town hall meeting in Nanaimo on Jan. 15.
The line up of opponents is a mile long but standing out are our own GSX Concerned Citizens Coalition and the Joint Industry Electricity Steering Committee.
In the rarefied world of utility regulation, intervenor lists a mile long are common and seldom merit media attention as lawyers and experts figuratively argue over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
This one is different. The JIESC, for instance, is the group representing the pulp mills on Vancouver Island and the Lower Coast - the largest electrical energy consumers in the province. They are digging in their heels and are prepared to block this project, even if it means appealing to the highest court available.
JIESC believes the project is just plain wrong in economic terms. It's too expensive, they say, with electricity costing almost four times as much as BC Hydro is currently paying for electricity generated in small private run-of-river projects.
Duke Point will be fired with natural gas, a premium fuel whose cost is forecast to continue to rise. Not only that, the JIESC says BC Hydro still does not have a firm fix on the cost of bringing extra natural gas to Vancouver Island to fire the project. Terasen has made some estimates but has not finalized the figures. They, too, need to go before the BCUC for approval for their plans, which includes the proposal to build a facility in North Oyster to liquefy and store natural gas. Only when Terasen finalizes its application to the BCUC will the full costs be known.
There are some in the JIESC that worry that this Duke Point project has all the makings of a new fast ferries fiasco, the financial debacle that was largely responsible for bringing down the former NDP government.
The GSXCCC is opposing on environmental grounds, along with economic arguments. This group has proven its determination and has learned a lot since forming to fight this project several years ago. They will present far more cogent arguments than the emotional environmental rhetoric that characterized their positions in the past.
These are strange bedfellows, indeed, with a lot of the people involved in GSXCCC being members of other groups that would love to shut the pulp industry down on environmental grounds.
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