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Abbott hints at overall IPP plan

Province appears poised to make changes to approval process

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In the wake of the regional district’s rejection of the Ashlu IPP the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management has indicated the province will be pushing for a shake up of the project approval process as well as a province-wide IPP plan.

Ledcor’s proposed run-of-river power project on the Ashlu River was supported by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Squamish Nation. But the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District rejected the project in January. That decision drew harsh criticism from the provincial government and Ledcor, which had spent time and thousands of dollars on planning.

But the SLRD had matching criticism for the provincial government about the lack of planning that has gone into preparing for what has become an onslaught of run-of-river power project applications throughout the Sea to Sky corridor.

Abbott said last week that government discussion was now focussed on trying to fix the process rather than overturn any decisions.

"The discussion that we’re having in government at the moment now would be centred around how we can better manage our processes with local government in the future," said Abbott. "So that we don’t have proponents expending millions of dollars to develop an idea, clear all the federal and provincial hurdles, then have the problem of the project blocked at the end by a local government decision.

"Not to say that that (SLRD) decision is wrong; local governments make those decisions and they try and make the best decision they can. But what we’re hoping is trying to bring local government into our processes at an earlier stage so that everyone understands what the process is. If there are serious issues we address them earlier in the process before there’s a huge expenditure of public or private capital to look at the project.

"One of the things we’re going to be working through is the further development of the memorandum of understanding that we signed between Sustainable Resource Management, Community Aboriginal Women’s Services and UBCM… at the last Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. "That memorandum directs the parties to improve processes so everyone more clearly understands what work’s being done at each level of government.

"I think that much of that process would be about how local, provincial and federal governments can better line up their processes around the IPP sector."

Any decision to implement a wider IPP plan would involve Minister of Energy and Mines Richard Neufeld, who has been critical of calls for more planning when proponents already have to navigate through an extensive approval process.

But Neufeld has been consulting with Abbott on this issue and Abbott, who was once the chair of the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District, said the provincial government appears to be headed towards creating a bigger plan.

"In terms of an IPP plan that’s more a Ministry of Energy and Mines question but that would seem to me to be consistent with the memorandum that we signed with UBCM," said Abbott.

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