March 16, 2001 Federal Court Rules for Rivers - Not Power Exports

Federal Court Rules for Rivers – Not Power Exports

March 16, 2001

VANCOUVER – The Steelhead Society is pleased to announce a major legal victory against BC Hydro and the threat of negative impact of hydro electric projects on fish and fish habitats in British Columbia.

Announced March 15th, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that in granting two, ten-year export permits to BC Hydro in 1998, the National Energy Board (NEB) did not properly take into account the possible environmental impacts of manipulation of water flows at hydro electric facilities to accommodate power exports.

Under the initial direction of the Steelhead Society, with support of the BC Wildlife Federatin (BCWF), the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) successfully argued that the managing of BC Hydro’s reservoir system to meet the demands for export would significantly exacerbate the impacts of hydro electric operations on fish and fish habitat. In the March 14 judgement, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that NEB’s decision to issue export permits to BC Hydro was “not reasonable” because the original BC Hydro applications for permits did not properly address the potential of “significant adverse environmental effects” arising from it’s hydro electric facilities.

Having been witness to the adverse effect of dams and diversion structures on wild fish and wild rivers throughout British Columbia, the Steelhead Society considers this ruling a critical step in increasing the accountability of industry to the wild legacy of the province. “At a time of increased awareness of the potential negative impacts of dams on rivers systems and the energy crisis in California,” says Steelhead Society President Daniel Burns, “this decision reasserts the priority and responsibility of British Columbia to the health of the environment – above and beyond the revenue generated by power exports.”

“This decision could have serious implications for power-starved California and the provincial budget,” says Tim Howard, the SLDF staff lawyer who argued the case. BC Hydro has 60 days to submit a plan that satisfies the Steelhead Society and the BC Wildlife Federation. Without approval from the SSBC and the BCWF, the Court could nullify the export permits and force BC Hydro to reapply to the NEB in order to continue to export power.