New transmission line equals secret subsidy for BC Liberal supporters

If a major lightning storm was going to hit ground somewhere in the province of BC, you would want to know about it.

Well, a major electricity transmission project is moving ahead and no one has heard about it.

Electricity is really just organized lightning.
                        -George Carlin 

Recently Dogwood Initiative learned that the BC government is secretly considering a proposal to use $120-$400 million in taxpayer money to build a new 287 kilovolt power line in northwestern BC, up Highway 37 from Meziadine Junction to Dease Lake (and perhaps further).

Why? To promote the interests of a few mining promoters, who, over the last ten years, have collectively donated  over $440,000 to the BC Liberal party.

The proposal of this crew of resource companies wants the citizens of BC to pay for the infrastructure they need to make tens of billions of dollars.

These companies claim it is an economic development scheme. It is, but the wrong kind. Their proposal is based on an antiquated, but simple economic development model-“publicize” the costs and “privatize” the profits.

The resource companies pushing the transmission line claim their project will generate over $2 billion in investment. Perhaps. But the real question is who benefits and who loses?

The economics are simple. The companies profit by getting government to use taxpayers’ money to build infrastructure that primarily benefits the companies. The profits go to the directors, officers and shareholders. The government gets a relatively small return in taxes. And the local people pay the costs in reduced quality of life, environmental degradation, and associated social ills.

The proposed grid extension along Highway 37 is a classic example of this failed model. The new power line would create a literal gold rush (and coal, copper, and coalbed methane rush) in the Stikine and Skeena watersheds, opening up the region for more mining schemes. This rush would dramatically change the economy and environment of northwestern BC.

One of the companies, bc Metals, projects it can produce 1.18 million ounces of gold and 1.85 billion pounds of copper, worth over $7 billion at today’s commodity prices, at its proposed Red Chris mine. Nova Gold boasts of recoverable amounts of over 5 million ounces of gold, 92 million ounces of silver and 6.5 billion pounds of copper worth over $27 billion.

bc Metals is the lead promoter for the new transmission line and is pulling out all the stops to pressure government to fork over the cash. Within days of getting an environmental assessment certificate for the Red Chris mine just 18km south of Iskut, the company began whining that the project wasn’t economical without a taxpayer-financed transmission line.

The lack of public process illustrates the continued contempt the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has for British Columbians. The Ministry seems to see consultation and public participation as mere obstacles. And, despite the boom in fossil-fuel and mineral prices, the government wants to subsidize these unsustainable industries with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

This disconnection is why communities throughout British Columbia are standing up against subsidized coalbed methane, coal-fired power, and independent power projects.

Once people become aware of the potential impacts of the Highway 37 transmission project, you can expect the uproar to begin. We’ll keep you informed.  

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