Province to announce details of Site C review

Province to announce details of Site C review

Province to announce details of Site C review

Now, Andrew Weaver says he's "glad" that the new NDP government decided today to refer the B.C. Hydro project to an independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

"Currently there's 2,200 people on site working and to immediately stop the project would have impacts on them so we have to recognize that", said Energy Minister Michelle Mungall, citing the low-range estimate for current employment at the site.

"Our government is delivering on our commitment to British Columbians by ordering an independent review of Site C to ensure we can keep hydro rates affordable", she said.

Construction on the $8.8-billion Site C project was started by the previous government in July 2015 without the independent regulatory oversight of the BCUC.

The middle option - mothballing - was the more clever politically of the three that the cabinet presented to the B.C. Utilities Commission for consideration.

Announced today, the provincial government has asked the BCUC to confirm whether BC Hydro is on budget and on time and provide ratepayers with advice on whether to move forward with, pause or stop the project.

The government has also asked the BCUC to consult interested parties and First Nations, including public hearings in the Lower Mainland and the North and an opportunity to submit written comments. The review will begin August 9th. The terms of reference specify a preliminary report from the BCUC within six weeks (by September 20), and a final report within 12 weeks (by November 1). "Site C has also faced 14 separate court actions and was upheld in every single one of them". No new contracts are expected to go out to tender in that time frame.

Opposition Leader Rich Coleman says the NDP are putting jobs and future growth at risk.

Yet it could also avoid some of the costs of outright cancellation, including the estimated hundreds of millions of dollars to fully restore the heavily worked over construction site along both banks of the Peace River.

Residents who live in the flood zone have been in limbo since their leases expired last week. They sold their properties to B.C. Hydro and have been renting them since.

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"The review is unnecessary", said association president Chris Gardner.

"We absolutely appreciate that a lot of people's lives are on hold - especially in the northeast of B.C. and that's why we wanted to make this an expeditious process and we're going to be looking at this in an expeditious way in short order", said Mungall.

That call has been reinforced repeatedly by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, however, Energy Minister Bill Bennett resisted those calls, while Premier Christy Clark vowed past year to get the project passed the "point of no return".

"That regulatory approvals and environmental assessments are not worth the paper they are printed on". He said it's on time and on budget.

Six to 12 weeks isn't long enough to complete a review of value, he said.

The objective of the review is to figure out if BC really needs this project.

For details, she said reporters should consult the commission itself.

Overall, however, Weaver said he's pleased at the NDP's terms of reference for the review. The NDP and Greens have a power-sharing agreement that props up the NDP government.

He said he would be surprised if it finds Site C is a more economical option than investing in alternatives such as the energy storage sector.

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