The Canadian Press

It’s not too late to pull the plug on Site C: expert

Former civil servant says Newfoundland and Labrador’s dam experience is a warning

A hydroelectric venture in central Labrador should serve as a cautionary tale for B.C. and its own ambitions to build a multibillion-dollar dam in the province’s northeast, the former head of Newfoundland and Labrador’s public utilities regulator says.

David Vardy, a former economics professor and retired civil servant in that province, published a letter Tuesday addressed to the B.C. Utilities Commission containing more than a dozen recommendations based on lessons learned from Muskrat Falls.

READ MORE: Protestors stand for Site C during Clark’s visit

READ MORE: Supreme Court dismisses two Site C lawsuits from B.C. First Nations

The utilities regulator was tasked earlier this month by B.C.’s new NDP government to review the economic viability of Site C, an $8.8-billion energy project under construction on the Peace River.

“B.C. has the luxury of being able to stop this now without going any further,” Vardy said in an interview. “In terms of the take-away from Muskrat Falls: It’s not too late to stop it.”

Vardy’s letter outlined the similarities between the two provinces’ megaprojects: Both are backed by powerful Crown corporations, both were exempt from the usual regulatory oversight process, at least initially, and both have experienced ballooning costs over time.

The price tag for Muskrat Falls has more than doubled from original estimates, swelling to $12.7 billion in the province of only about 525,000 people. Vardy said the project’s cost of about $24,000 per person would double the province’s per capita net debt and pose a major threat to its solvency.

Vardy encouraged B.C.’s Utilities Commission to ensure Site C is built according to current energy needs and is made as adaptable as possible, warning that the rapid pace of technological advances could make the project obsolete before long.

He also emphasized the importance of independent public oversight and a rigorous public review process, lauding the analysis being conducted by the utilities commission.

The review began Aug. 9, with interim findings due six weeks later and a final report expected by Nov. 1.

The commission’s review process in B.C. was once standard before the previous Liberal government’s clean-energy laws permitted some projects, including Site C, to circumvent the regulatory process.

An email from B.C.’s Energy Ministry said the government would consider the results of the report, as well as environmental and First Nations considerations, before making a timely decision on the future of Site C.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall declined further comment “out of respect for the independence of the review process.”

BC Hydro could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association told the utilities commission in a statement released Tuesday that BC Hydro must complete Site C.

“The Site C dam has been the subject of a robust, nearly three year, independent review and its business case is solid,” president Chris Gardner said. “We cannot produce this kind of high quality, reasonably priced, clean energy anywhere.”

There are about 2,400 people working on Site C.

Gardner described Site C as an “all-important backbone” that would allow B.C. to transition to other renewable energy sources, adding that ratepayers cannot be expected to spend billions of dollars and get nothing in return.

But Vardy dismissed the logic of chasing money already spent, which he called sunk costs.

“The key consideration must be future costs,” he said.

“We may find it very difficult to walk away from an investment … but what really counts is how much money you’re going to have to spend before you get something that’s worth anything.”

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Local artist Danika Naccarella commissioned to design artwork for Northern Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf symbolizes family, loyalty and the protection of those travelling their waters.

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

Conservation officers relocate two grizzlies away from Bella Coola

Officers worried the bears would become reliant on human food sources

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

Trudeau says he can’t imagine Trump damaging U.S. by imposing auto tariffs

New tariffs on Canadian autos entering the U.S. would amount to a self-inflicted wound on the U.S. economy

B.C. inmate gets 2 years in prison for assault on guard

Union rep said inmate sucker punched correctional officer, continued assault after officer fell

Temperature records broken across B.C., again

The first heat wave of the season went out with a bang across the province

Canada’s first national accessibility law tabled in Ottawa

The introduction of the Accessible Canada Act marked a key step towards greater inclusion

Police chief calls for mass casualty plan in Saskatchewan after Broncos crash

Former Saskatoon police chief Clive Weighill said the office was tasked with creating such a plan 13 years ago but none exists

U.S. schools mum on ties to doc in sex abuse inquiry

A now-dead doctor accused of sexual misconduct acted as a team physician at other universities

Phillies fan injured by flying hot dog

Allegedly the team’s mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, rolled out his hot dog launcher

New Jersey forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

Vancouver’s Sedin brothers share King Clancy Award for humanitarian efforts

Most Read