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Clean Energy Act by-passes public debate

27 May, 2010

On April 28th Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources finally unveiled the BC government’s long promised Clean Energy Act (Bill 17).  The Act is intended to promote the development of renewable energy in BC. 

West Coast Environmental Law has been on the forefront of calling for laws that will ensure that new energy production is clean and green, including being one of the authors of Recommendations for Responsible Clean Electricity Development in British Columbia and hosting a dialogue on how BC can build a clean energy futuresolarpanels.jpg

We’ve now reviewed Bill 17 in detail, and earlier this week we released our legal analysis of the Clean Energy Bill.  Our conclusion?

West Coast Environmental Law is concerned that the Act as currently framed will not ensure inclusive and comprehensive energy planning, will not succeed in avoiding unnecessary environmental impacts, and will not ensure that the scaling up of renewable electricity generation achieves social license and broad public buy-in to create the certainty needed by industry. …

In particular, West Coast Environmental Law is concerned that the Clean Energy Act:

  1. Fails to commit the province to achieving its energy objectives with the lowest possible environmental impact.
  2. Fails to ensure a transparent, inclusive and comprehensive planning process. ...
  3. Does not respond to the need identified by First Nations for greater involvement in both renewable electricity decision-making and development in their traditional territories.

For the full analysis read our Backgrounder on Bill 17

West Coast’s legal analysis is already informing the public debate on Bill 17.  Yesterday the Legislature started its debate of the Statute, and John Horgan, Energy Critic for the Opposition, referred to our backgrounder at several points in the debate:

So the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club, West Coast Environmental Law, Watershed Watch, Save Our Rivers, the list goes on and on.  Environmental organizations are concerned and perplexed at the direction that the government is going. …

So we're back to West Coast Environmental Law, hon. Speaker. …  We talked about the regional planning process to identify the best options for development, and their concern is that the act short-circuits the planning process by predetermining critical policy outcomes. Now, what does that mean “predetermining critical policy outcomes?”

Well, I would suggest to the minister that it's the exemption list that's reducing the ability for the public to have input on critical policy issues. That's the rub. That's the concern. That's why people are lining up to oppose your legislation.

The backgrounder does discuss what’s meant by “predetermining critical policy outcomes” in more detail.  Specifically, we have long called for an open and transparent planning process to determine BC’s energy future.  The Clean Energy Act makes a number of critical decisions that have not involved an open and transparent planning process, such as:

  • BC will be a net exporter of power;
  • BC needs to build the Site C dam; and
  • the Northwest Transmission Line will be built. 

West Coast has not necessarily taken a position on any of these specific issues – except that it is not responsible to proceed with any of these initiatives without proper planning, open discussion, the public’s buy-in, and First Nations involvement in decisions on developments in their traditional territories.  The Clean Energy Act essentially says that all of this is unnecessary – We don’t think that British Columbians are OK with that.