Indiepower

This week our columnist Rob Brown tackles independent power project and the political spin around them

Somehow I had it in my head that Premier Christy Clark had decreed there will be no more independent power projects (IPPs) in our fair province. But I must have dreamt it, for after scouring the internet I find no confirmation that Christy, who, we should not forget, was deputy premier under Gordon Campbell, has seen the error of her ways and repudiated these green power ops.

With cabinet ministers racing down the anchor ropes of a liberal ship of state that is starting to look a lot like the Costa Concordia, the beleaguered Premier can use every bit of support she can get. Her recent anti-bullying initiative will doubtless win her some undecided votes, but will not persuade anyone who remembers that it was she and boss Campbell who led a jihad against teachers and social workers, thereby disaffecting the very people best positioned to do something meaningful in that area.

Disavowing IPPs, on the other hand, besides being a declaration that she is willing to wear sack cloth and ashes for prior sins, could play well with voters ignorant about IPPs as well as voters who understand IPPs and are vehemently opposed them. The majority of folks in the hinterlands, like those who saw the destructive impact of the Ashlu project, fall in this category. Christy Clark, who owes her ascendancy to a structural change in a Liberal Party’s leadership selection process that allowed her to use votes from the riding associations in the hinterlands, should appreciate that there is much concern about IPPs in those same hinterlands.

When marketing these habitat destroying land grabs, the proponents of IPPs use words like “green,” “clean,” and “small,” and buzz phrases like “environmentally friendly” to  cultivate images of unobtrusive projects that blend into forest landscapes creating hardly a ripple on the sylvan sea of green. The objective of this spin is to foster a warm fuzzy feeling of sustainability in the general public. Spinning in the PR sense is a euphemism for lying. The green clean spin given to the promotion of IPPs is a huge lie, as Jim and I confirmed a few weeks ago when we took a drive down Whitebottom Main to Dasque and Middle Creeks. We were motivated to do this when we heard there had been some kind of destruction done to Dasque Creek with the result that the proponent, Swift Power, was looking to hand out some mitigation money to a local organization concerned with salmon. Jim and I sit on the Terrace Salmonid Enhancement Society Board.

When we arrived at the site, we were staggered by the amount of earth that had been moved. There is no way, given the amount of debris and the fleet of heavy equipment moving it around, that the wildlife habitat in the Dasque and Middle Creek watersheds could not have suffered a huge environmental hit. I looked at the devastation and attempted to multiply it by the 627 current license applications to wreck small streams and their wildlife corridors and was appalled by the scale of potential ruin the approval of these projects would mean.

When it became clear that Regional Districts were unlikely to approve IPPs within their domain, Campbell, Clark, and cabinet had legislation drafted that took decision making on these issues out of their hands. This centralization of power amounted to the usurpation of the local democracy and the first scandal spawned by the Liberals’ IPP initiative.

Campbell and Clark’s credo is a stew consisting of misinterpretation of the theories of the great 18th Century moral philosopher, Adam Smith, and the ravings of the  radical right wing economist Milton Friedman. Unfazed by the clear and present failures of trickle down economics, deregulation, and privatization (Wall Street Meltdown being the most recent example) Campbell and cronies sought to cripple BC Hydro and justify its privatization by passing legislation that forces the corporation to buy and use power at a loss from IPPs when it can use its own power for less. As a result of these shenanigans, the Crown Corporation now carries a $50 billion obligation to IPPs. This purposeful bankrupting of what was an enormously successful government corporation is the second scandal borne of the Liberals’ IPP scam.

For the sake of argument, let us assume there were instances were it was acceptable to ruin wildlife habitat for economic gain, and that Dasque Creek was one of those. Let’s assume too that the project was a successful economic enterprise without the money BC Hydro is forced to pay to it. Even under these preposterous terms it would make no sense for a private Albertan company to reap the profits of the enterprise instead of BC Hydro.