New environment minister mum on Site C

Calls to Trudeau to scrap dam continue

Environmental groups are continuing calls to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to scrap the Site C dam, but the office of his environment minister won’t say whether the new government will continue or withdraw support for the project.

On Wednesday, six environmental groups led by the Peace Valley Landowner Association and Sierra Club BC called on Trudeau in a letter to reject the dam as part of Canada’s climate strategy.

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The groups say the dam will be a “net contributor" to climate change through emissions from the dam itself, and “indirect emissions caused by using hydro electricity from Site C to facilitate fracking and LNG development, whose climate pollution is comparable to coal.”

“We ask that the federal government recognize that Site C is not a climate solution, and that it not give support to the B.C. government in Paris regarding Site C,” reads the letter, signed also by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Peace Valley Environment Association, the Wilderness Committee and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

“When combined with strong opposition from Treaty 8 First Nations, and international concern over impacts to the Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada’s support for this mega-project would interfere with achieving many of the goals you have set for your government and the country.”

Trudeau, along with Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, are due in Paris Nov. 30 for 12 days of talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

McKenna inherited federal approval of the $8.8-billion dam by the previous Conservative government when she was appointed to her post on Nov. 4. The dam is the subject of numerous legal challenges, including a federal court appeal by West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations in which the environment minister is named as a plaintiff.

A spokesperson for McKenna’s office did not say whether the minister would withdraw from the appeal challenging the federal decision to award the dam an environmental certificate for construction, nor would they say if the minister supports the project.

“As the matter of this project is currently before the court, it would not be appropriate to comment further,” said Barbara Harvey, MacKenna’s press secretary.

The minister’s office declined an interview with the Alaska Highway News.

The previous federal cabinet under environment minister Leona Aglukkaq approved the dam’s environmental assessment certificate, but the reasons for its decision were not revealed, even in the initial lawsuit, due to cabinet privilege of the government-in-council order (GIC).

"While the reasons provided by the GIC could have been better articulated and more transparent, they are within the reasonable boundaries and requirements for GIC reasons," Judge Michael Manson wrote in a decision against First Nations plaintiffs in August.

"The GIC must consider a wide range of considerations and information put before it. As a body comprised of elected officials, it is accountable to the electorate: the public itself."

During the election campaign, Prince George-Peace River Liberal candidate Matt Shaw said he supported the Site C dam, but noted his position may have differed from his party. Trudeau did not mention Site C during his campaign, and did not mention the dam as a priority in a mandate letter he wrote to McKenna.

The B.C. government does not seem to know what the federal plans are, either.

“The Ministry of Energy and Mines has not had any interaction with Environment Canada since the federal election,” said spokesman David Haslam.

“We are not aware of the federal government’s approach to defending appeals of the federal court decision on the judicial review applications, as we are not a party in those proceedings.”

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