Canada, B.C. agencies grant environmental approvals to 1,100-MW Peace River Site C hydro project

Environment Canada and the environment and forestry ministers of British Columbia have granted final environmental approvals for BC Hydro to construct the 1,100-MW Peace River Site C hydroelectric project in British Columbia.

BC Hydro said British Columbia still must make a final investment decision and the province-owned utility must obtain regulatory permits and authorizations before it could proceed with the giant project on the Peace River.

Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a formal statement Oct. 14 outlining the Governor in Council’s determination that the environmental effects of the proposed Site C project are justified in the circumstances.

“The Site C project … underwent a thorough independent federal-provincial review by an independent panel,” Aglukkaq said. “This process included extensive, meaningful and respectful consultations with the public and aboriginal groups. The environmental assessment process provided the scientific and technical expertise and the effective engagement of the public and aboriginal groups to enable an informed decision by both governments.”

In a separate announcement the same day, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak and Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations Minister Steve Thomson said Site C is in the public interest and that the benefits of the project outweigh the risks of significant adverse environmental, social and heritage effects.

Aglukkaq said the Environment Canada decision statement contains more than 80 legally binding conditions that must be fulfilled by BC Hydro throughout the life of the project. Polak and Thomson said their environmental certificate contained 77 legally binding conditions for the project.

“BC Hydro will carefully reflect on the conditions and ensure that plans are in place to fully meet all of the conditions set out by the federal and provincial governments,” BC Hydro Executive Vice President Susan Yurkovich said.

Should the project proceed, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office is to coordinate compliance management efforts with other government agencies to ensure that the office is satisfied that certificate conditions are met.

“The proposed Site C project is an important one for British Columbia and for Canada as it will support jobs and economic growth while providing clean, renewable energy over the next 100 years,” Aglukkaq said. “… Over the life of the project, Site C is expected to help mitigate the growth in greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by preventing the discharge of between 34 to 76 megatons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent.”

The C$7.9 billion (US$7 billion) Site C would be the third hydroelectric project on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia, joining 2,730-MW G.M. Shrum and 694-MW Peace Canyon Dam. In 1976, BC Hydro chose Site C for potential development after finding Peace River Sites A, B, D, and E were not viable.

Site C is included in BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan detailing how the utility plans to meet an expected 40 percent increase in British Columbia’s electricity demand over the next 20 years.

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