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Comment: Leaders’ three-way energy deal has high price

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have cooked up a sweet deal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have cooked up a sweet deal. Trudeau and Notley get their pipeline to tidewater, while Clark gets federal approval for the Site C dam and the Petronas liquefied fracked-gas plant.

The three-way political backscratching has a high price, and the people of British Columbia will be paying it.

Clark, Notley and Trudeau are doing a contradictory dance: promoting the expansion of fossil-fuel exports while trying to paint themselves as climate heroes. The Petronas plant and the Kinder Morgan pipeline, both now federally approved, are greenhouse-gas time bombs being set for our children and grandchildren.

Greenwashing them is a tall order. That’s where the Site C dam comes in.

The dam would flood out wildlife, First Nations treaty rights and some of the best farmland in the province. Construction cost estimates range from $9 billion to $17 billion, which will be paid for by massive hydro rate increases. The elderly and others on fixed or low incomes will be particularly hard hit.

In her underwhelming, ineffective climate plan, Clark proposes using Site C to power fracking, claiming electric power would make fossil-fuel expansion a greener proposition by reducing domestic emissions.

Conveniently overlooked in this scenario is that, while reducing carbon pollution in B.C. is a good thing, the associated expansion of fracking and export of fracked gas will increase global emissions. And that is terrible news for our climate.

(The government’s claim that fracked gas is better than coal as a fuel for electricity generation in Asia has been proven false. Methane released through fracking makes fracked gas as bad as coal for our climate, if not worse.)

The same logic applies to Clark’s proposal to export Site C power to Alberta for the oilsands: It would enable Notley to point to reduced upstream emissions, while simultaneously expanding climate-polluting fossil-fuel exports.

Welcome to emissions accounting by sleight of hand: Point to domestic emissions reductions while ignoring the resultant increase in global climate pollution.

It gets worse. Site C power would be provided to oil and gas corporations at a rate lower than it costs to produce, and far lower than household customers pay. You and I (and our kids and grandkids) will pay to subsidize fossil-fuel expansion and the climate damage it will do. Subsidies and handouts for giant foreign corporations; skyrocketing hydro bills for the rest of us.

The Alberta government has been clear it won’t support a hydroelectric link unless B.C. gets onside with an oil pipeline to tidewater. Last summer, B.C.’s energy minister suddenly announced that Kinder Morgan was getting closer to yes with the province. Federal permits for Site C were issued that same month. And now Trudeau has approved Kinder Morgan.

Is it coincidence, then, that Energy Minister Bill Bennett has called for federal support for transmission-line development in northeast B.C.? Don’t be surprised if the prime minister announces federal support to transmit Site C power to the fracking fields of B.C. and to the oilsands across the border in Alberta.

And don’t be surprised if Clark then discovers she supports Kinder Morgan.

The Peace River Valley, B.C.’s coastline and wild-salmon economy have become sacrifice zones in this political game, and B.C. Hydro ratepayers all across the province will have to pay for it.

To add insult to injury, the decision to build Site C has pulled the rug out from under sustainable-energy generation in B.C. Last year, the Canadian Wind Energy Association pulled out of B.C., saying that Site C was killing the market for its member companies. Solar-generated electricity is now being produced elsewhere for about a quarter of the price of Site C power.

The Site C dam is the linchpin that will make B.C. a sacrifice zone for fossil-fuel exports and increased climate impacts for all our communities.

It’s not too late to stop Site C and get off this train to climate chaos.

British Columbians go to the polls in May. Demand that candidates in your riding clearly state their position on Site C. Then vote accordingly.

Caitlyn Vernon is the campaigns director for Sierra Club B.C.