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Does B.C.'s new power line fall short of being green?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came under attack from environmentalists last week following his announcement, in Washington, that Ottawa will provide $130-million from the Green Infrastructure Fund for a power line in northwestern British Columbia. Was the criticism justified? Or did Mr. Harper get unfairly attacked? He was accused of "greenwashing" the Northwest Transmission Line, a $404-million project that will push power cables along the scenic Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Accusations of 'greenwashing' are flying around the Northwest Transmission Line, but there's more to the project than meets the eye

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came under attack from environmentalists last week following his announcement, in Washington, that Ottawa will provide $130-million from the Green Infrastructure Fund for a power line in northwestern British Columbia. Was the criticism justified? Or did Mr. Harper get unfairly attacked?

He was accused of "greenwashing" the Northwest Transmission Line, a $404-million project that will push power cables along the scenic Stewart-Cassiar Highway into a remote corner of the province that has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada.

The federal funding is conditional on a contribution from the B.C. government - which provincial Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom was quick to promise. B.C. hopes to raise $90-million in private-sector money (good luck with that), and that would leave the province on the hook for the remaining $184-million.

That's big money, and it's no wonder both Ottawa and Victoria are spinning this as a "green" project - hoping to win broad public support for what at... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Accusations of 'greenwashing' are flying around the Northwest Transmission Line, but there's more to the project than meets the eye

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came under attack from environmentalists last week following his announcement, in Washington, that Ottawa will provide $130-million from the Green Infrastructure Fund for a power line in northwestern British Columbia. Was the criticism justified? Or did Mr. Harper get unfairly attacked?

He was accused of "greenwashing" the Northwest Transmission Line, a $404-million project that will push power cables along the scenic Stewart-Cassiar Highway into a remote corner of the province that has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada.

The federal funding is conditional on a contribution from the B.C. government - which provincial Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom was quick to promise. B.C. hopes to raise $90-million in private-sector money (good luck with that), and that would leave the province on the hook for the remaining $184-million.

That's big money, and it's no wonder both Ottawa and Victoria are spinning this as a "green" project - hoping to win broad public support for what at first glance appears to be a power line meant to help a cluster of new mines open.

"This transmission line is anything but green," said Merran Smith, climate director with the non-profit ForestEthics.

"This transmission line is about electrifying coal and metal mines more than it is about clean, green energy," agreed Eric Swanson, a campaigner with the Dogwood Initiative, an environmental group with offices in Victoria.

Looking at where this transmission line will go, it's easy to see why environmentalists are upset. At 335 kilometres in length, it falls short of reaching the communities of Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek, which depend on dirty diesel generation. So there are no green benefits there.

But the line reaches deep into a region where 10 mines are proposed. Having access to relatively cheap, reliable hydro is expected to be a key factor in making these projects go.

Is a transmission line that powers mines, which might not otherwise be built, but which leaves towns dependent on diesel, really a green project? Obviously not. But there's more to the Northwest Transmission Line than the mines it could serve.

Also waiting for that transmission line to be built are seven wind and hydro generating stations, including one announced recently in which the Iskut Band Council will partner with Aski Enterprises Inc. to develop a 150,000-hectare wind farm.

And there has been lots of talk about linking the new transmission line to the Alaska power grid - which would allow the northern state to ship power through B.C. to rapidly growing markets in the Pacific Northwest.

A recent study identified 170,000 megawatts of undeveloped hydropower resources in the U.S. - and the single "largest available potential" was found in Alaska, where about 45,000 MW are awaiting development.

B.C.'s Northwest Transmission Line will encourage development of that Alaska hydropower, and it will also stimulate expansion of the state's transmission-line system, which will allow many isolated native communities to get off expensive diesel generation.

So the view from Alaska is very much that the new power line is a green project, as it is from Iskut, where the band council is excited about its huge wind-farm proposal.

It's clear both the mines and the renewable-power projects can only be built at some environmental cost, however.

The biggest concern has to be over the potential damage that could be done to rivers in a region that is one of greatest wild-salmon strongholds left in North America.

When all the factors are weighed, it seems fair enough for Mr. Harper to call the transmission line green because it will stimulate renewable power developments and get native communities (at least in Alaska) off dirty diesel generation.

It's just too bad he didn't go a step further for the planet, and provide extra funding to ensure that the mine and power developments are environmentally sensitive. Now that really would have been green.


Source: http://www.theglobeandmail....

SEP 21 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/22278-does-b-c-s-new-power-line-fall-short-of-being-green
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