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Site C Project Granted Environmental Approvals by B.C. and Federal Governments

Posted in Aboriginal, BC Hydro, Electricity, Hydroelectric
British Columbia
Paul R. CassidySven MilelliSelina Lee-Andersen

The B.C. and federal governments have granted environmental approvals to BC Hydro for its Site C Clean Energy Project (Site C).  B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak announced on October 14, 2014 the issuance of an environmental assessment certificate (EA Certificate) for Site C, concluding that the project is in the public interest and that its benefits outweigh the risks of significant adverse environmental, social and heritage effects.  In addition, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a decision statement (Decision Statement) approving Site C, declaring that the significant adverse environmental effects that Site C is likely to cause are justified in the circumstances.

With these approvals in place, the B.C. government must now decide whether to proceed with Site C based on an investment decision.

A copy of the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s information bulletin announcing the approval is available here; copies of the environmental assessment certificate and related materials are available here.  A copy of the Environment Canada Decision Statement is available here.

The B.C. and federal approvals follow the submission to both governments in May 2014 of the report of the joint federal-provincial panel (the Joint Review Panel) appointed to review Site C.  The Joint Review Panel was mandated to assess Site C’s potential environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects.  Our prior blog post on the Joint Review Panel report can be accessed here.

The EA Certificate includes 77 conditions that BC Hydro must meet, including:

  • Establishing a $20 million fund to compensate for lost agricultural lands and activities.
  • Developing a Wetland Mitigation and Compensation Plan and monitoring construction and operation activities that could cause changes in wetland function
  • Developing an Aboriginal Business Participation Strategy to maximize opportunities for Aboriginal businesses
  • Building 50 rental units in Fort St. John, of which 40 will be used for BC Hydro housing and 10 will be available for low-to-moderate income households. Upon completion of the construction phase, the 40 worker housing units will be made available to low-to-moderate income households
  • Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from the reservoir for the first ten years of operations as part of a Greenhouse Gases Monitoring and Follow-up Program

The Decision Statement also includes a number of conditions that BC Hydro must meet, including with respect to: accident prevention; downstream water flow and water level conditions and related risks to infrastructure between the Site C project and Peace River, Alberta; water quality; fish and fish habitat management; the monitoring and mitigation of potential disturbances to migratory birds and wetland and non-wetland bird habitats; protection of health of Aboriginal peoples, including with respect to air quality and methylmercury levels in fish; protection of archaeological and heritage resources and traditional uses of land by downstream Aboriginal groups; and protection of species at risk, at-risk and sensitive ecological communities and rare plants.

The Site C project would be a third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast B.C. It would provide 1,100 megawatts of capacity and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year – enough to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year.