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Speaking for Rosslanders - Council Takes Stance on IPPs

This past Monday’s council meeting brought a resolution to a five month process of sending off a letter to the provincial government with the city of Rossland’s stance on IPPs after much reworking and rethinking of the letter.  Rafe Mair’s presentation on Independent Power Projects (IPPs) brought to light the issue in the Kootenay region and all of BC for many. Through graphic video and photos of the IPP construction sites along with a series of unflattering statistics, a number of folks in Rossland got fired up about the issue and wanted to do something. Some in Rossland have questioned whether or not it was a good idea for the city to send a letter to the provincial government or make recommendations on the subject to begin with as the issue doesn’t directly affect Rossland’s area of jurisdiction. Once the letter was written some in town have questioned whether the letter truly speaks for the city or rather a few councillors.

“Coming back to the issue I don’t think it’s something the Rossland council should be getting into,” explained Graham Kenyon. “The other issue around that is the fact that they are getting in to it and presumably at some point may take some action in the way of a resolution or a letter to the provincial government suggest that they are acting on behalf of the people of Rossland. I don’t think that they should make their minds up and decide that they are making my mind up too.”

The original air of wanting to do something to act on the issue made its way to City Hall shortly after Mair’s presentation with a motion brought forward by Councillor Hanne Smith on December 8th that council should consider sending a letter to the provincial government recommending a moratorium on issuing water licences or licenses of occupation or IPP which also argued that hydro power should be

1. Publicly owned and regulated
2. Regionally planned
3. Environmentally appropriate

As the new council at that time was just getting their legs under them they voted originally to defer the motion until after the holidays for the January 12th meeting. At that time council voted in favour of drafting a letter with the original intent and three items in mind to send off to the provincial government before a letter from Mr. Kenyon the following day caused them to rethink the matter.

“What is the relevance?” asked Kenyon. “They spend all of this time and effort on this issue that as far as I know is not relevant with nothing like this planned for Rossland. They could very well be positive. For example there has been some discussion on Rossland getting self sufficient on energy needs so that they can reduce demands on the grid during the whole Visions to Actions idea that were chucked around. Some of them like the creeks we use for our water supply that come tumbling down off the mountain or possibly on the sewer line down to Trail. It’s somewhat murky water but it’s got some head (elevation change) to it. We should keep an open mind about these things rather than a moratorium which is just another way of shutting things down. We need the opportunity to look at things and see what they are all about.”

Mr. Kenyon’s letter to the city was received and considered at the January 26th meeting at which time council discussed the points and content of the letter along with its merits and called for Councillor Smith to re-draft the letter and bring it before a committee of the whole meeting on May 4th. During the May 4th meeting when the re-drafted letter was again discussed it was felt that the letter was getting deeper into the issue than council wanted to go with a number of specifics that not all councillors agreed upon. The letter still called for a provincial moratorium in general on issue new water licenses to IPP’s. This raised questions around the broad net that statement sends out. For example, if someone wanted to put a photo-voltaic panel on their roof to generate electricity would that be considered an independent power project and be disallowed under a moratorium, or if someone put a small micro hydro generator on a stream or water course to power their back country cabin, would that be considered an IPP and disallowed?

With no independent power projects currently planned for Rossland's jurisdiction, Mr. Kenyon questioned why the effort to send out a letter on a subject until it directly affects Rossland as it may eliminate or hold back some potentially good power generating ideas or projects in our area.

“They should not be doing it on the basis of the city at large. Secondly I’d be a lot happier about them getting involved in this issue at all if there was some relevance to Rossland. If there was an issue of say Murphy creek or whatever or a proposal to do something there then there would be some reason for Rossland to get involved in this issue. On a more general basis I think that each individual project should be carefully considered in any exploitation of our natural resources as there may be some good among the apparent bad.”

Once again the letter was sent back for a re-draft before coming to council again this past Monday evening. In its current form it reads as follows:
THAT the Province not issue any further water licenses or licenses of Occupation to Independent Power Projects (IPPs) until:
Regulations are changed to require proper environmental assessment, monitoring and enforcement processes for all IPPs,
Local governments are included as equal partners in decisions related to the approval or disapproval of IPP’s that affect their communities and regional ecosystems, and
The water in BC’s streams, rivers and lakes- and any new power generated from these waters – remains in perpetuity as a public resource for the use and benefit of the people of BC

“Any new power generated from these waters remain in perpetuity as a public resource, so are we saying the Waneta dam expansion, that power is public? In my opinion I could not support this resolution with that in there just because it’s limiting,” added Mayor Granstrom, agreeing that council was interested in these projects meeting some kind of environmental regulations, that the local people and government have a say in it, and that the water itself is public. However, Granstrom said, “That part of the resolution is not fair to me.”

Discussion continued on whether or not the third point in the resolution should be taken out or amended to not include the “and any new power generated from these waters” line with Councillor Jill  Spearn adding, “The intent makes good sense. It’s public versus private enterprise on our water in the province and the more we take away from the public... If it stays in public hands than we as citizens retain and own the water and to me I personally think that is not a bad thing. I’m in favour of the way the motion reads.”

“This is a good statement for us to make and I think it should go through,” added Councillor Kathy Moore.

Several suggestions were made to amend the wording of the motion; however, Councillor Smith declined the friendly amendment and councillors voted three to two on the resolution as written above. Councillor Wallace and Mayor Granstrom voted against the resolution. Councillor Stradling was absent from the meeting while Councillor Moore, who joined the meeting via phone, was unable to vote on the matter without being present physically.

TELEGRAPH DISCUSSION QUESTION: Should the city be speaking out on this and issues like it, and do you feel council is speaking truly on behalf of the city with the stance they have chosen to take?