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RFK Jr. sticks it to Bill 30

Environmental lawyer critical of province's lack of overall plan for IPPs



Robert F. Kennedy Jr. brought some pointed criticism to Whistler Wednesday, blasting British Columbia for Bill 30, legislation that “subverts democracy.”

Kennedy, the son of former senator and presidential candidate Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy, is chief prosecuting attorney for Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the Hudson River and its connecting tributaries.

He spoke to about 750 people in Whistler about environmental infrastructure at an event to commemorate the 20 th anniversary of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).

Kennedy touched on many environmental issues impacting the United States and saved some of his most biting criticism for the provincial government, chastising it for approving Bill 30 in 2006.

“When you see the destruction of the environment you will also see the subversion of democracy,” he said. “The Squamish (community) said we don’t want these hydro power plants in our district, the province has a rule saying it can’t make a decision at the locality.

“It has to be the decision of the province and put it into the hands of corporations like the General Electric company, which secretly own half the hydro plants, over 700 plants that are going up all over this province.”

Bill 30, which Kennedy referred to as “Rule 30,” didn’t unfold quite as he told it in his talk. Bill 30 was a legislation brought forward in 2006 that amended section 121 of the Utilities Commission Act, which gives authority to the British Columbia Utilities Commission to oversee all public utilities in British Columbia.

Section 121 of the Act states that nothing under the Community Charter or the Local Government Act, legislations that accord powers to municipalities and other local governments, can supersede the authority of the Utilities Commission.

Bill 30 amended that portion of the act to say that local government land use decisions cannot stop construction of a public utility facility.

The facility must also meet certain conditions: it must be situated on Crown land; obtain an electricity purchase agreement with B.C. Hydro, Powerex or FortisBC; and meeting necessary federal and provincial authorizations.

Kennedy’s mention of “700 plants” also wasn’t quite accurate. Opponents of IPPs often draw attention to the number of water licenses that have been granted on B.C.’s rivers, the first step towards developing an independent power producer.

Estimates have ranged anywhere between 500 and 700 water license applications — but that doesn’t mean that power facilities will go up wherever these license applications have been made.

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