Take the Money and Run

by Chris Genovali
Monday Magazine
May 7, 2009

Re: “Take the Money and Run,” April 30-May 6
How interesting to read in Monday that Plutonic Power contributed almost $40,000 to the BC Liberals’ “war chest.” Is it any wonder the government is attempting to convince the public that the province is doing something substantive to address climate change by opening up our coast to widespread Independent Power Project development?

Conservation science is clear that most forms of energy production have environmental consequences, even “micro-hydro” projects that are considered low carbon emitters. Scale often makes the difference between sustainable regional solutions and large energy projects designed for profit and export.

Let’s take a look at Plutonic Power’s proposed IPP for Bute Inlet. The draft terms of reference fail to establish a clear framework for a thorough environmental assessment that would identify potential impacts. And while the energy that this IPP produces might be “clean” in terms of carbon emissions, the power project does not come near to being green, sustainable or low impact. The threats to terrestrial, aquatic and avian species and their habitats illustrate how these run-of-river mega-projects require a sober second look.

Five species of Pacific salmon, as well as winter and summer-run steelhead,spawn and rear in reaches or tributaries of the 17 rivers proposed for water extraction and diversion; Plutonic is proposing to divert between 77 percent and 95 percent of the mean annual flow from those 17 rivers and tributaries,with potentially harmful consequences for salmon at every life stage.

Now is the time for intelligent planning, before poorly conceived energy developments cause large-scale environmental damage.

Raincoast Conservation is calling for a moratorium on independent power projects, along with the establishment of an expert panel of scientists, who aren’t suffering from what UVic’s Michael M’Gonigle calls “climate myopia” and grasp the broader ecological crisis. We envision such a panel would be mandated to distinguish between benign and harmful IPPs and to identify areas that should be off-limits to energy development as part of a rational and transparent planning process.

Chris Genovali, Executive Director, Raincoast Conservation

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Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.