Squamish Chiefs Respond to BC Hydro’s Plan

By Kelly McCaffrey

The Squamish Nation responded to BC Hydro’s Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP) in a letter to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) dated July 30th, 2009 and signed by Chief Bill Williams and Chief Gibby Jacob. The letter expresses the “shock, frustration, and disappointment” felt within the community.

“Through this decision and determination, you have attempted to turn the clock back a generation through regulation—completely ignoring both provincial government direction and the current reality of global warming and the need to move towards clean, green, and renewable sources of energy. Further, you have essentially pulled the rug out from under First Nations throughout British Columbia who were seeking accommodation and opportunity through private green power energy partnerships,” wrote the chiefs.

BC Utilities approved $631 million in expenditures, which the chiefs say does not “provide direct, specific, and targeted benefits to BC’s First Nations” and will continue the status quo of acquiring “brown energy” (non-renewable or polluting energy) at the expense of viable green energy opportunities. “Burrard Thermal and similar greenhouse gas emitting facilities represent the past, and yet that is the direction you have sanctioned. Wind, solar, and micro-hydro represent the future, and you have fundamentally disadvantaged them,” wrote the chiefs.

The chiefs point out BC Utilities has included imported electricity in their calculations—including energy sourced from coal and gas-fired power plants—in spite of “specific government policy direction to achieve energy self-sufficiency.” The chiefs also call the venture “risk-laden” and say the BCUC has undermined potentially beneficial opportunities with other energy companies who are undertaking responsible developments in First Nation territories. “This appears to us to be nothing less than a complete disregard for the time, energy, and investments that formed the basis of these quality partnerships,” stated the chiefs.

The chiefs are in favor of a green energy future and say, “We will strongly and publicly support any policy that provides those opportunities for our people and for all of British Columbia.” It has taken many years of hard work to bring real economic benefit and business opportunities to their communities through independent power projects like those at Brandywine and Ashlu. The Squamish Nation community supports Premier Gordon Campbell’s efforts to create a new future for First Nations through incentives such as BC Hydro’s Clean Power Call. “It is through initiatives such as these that we as a community can chart our own course to a brighter future that supports our housing, cultural, and educational needs through meaningful partnerships and accommodations.”