NEWS RELEASE · 29th April 2010
BC NDP Caucus
The introduction of the Clean Energy Act has gutted the regulatory powers of the B.C. Utilities Commission, and will lead to further rate increases for B.C. Hydro customers, say New Democrats.
“The BCUC has responsibility for protecting ratepayers from unnecessary rate hikes by providing oversight for B.C. Hydro long term planning and approval of major projects,” said John Horgan, New Democrat energy critic. “The B.C. Liberals’ private power agenda embedded in this new legislation is designed to remove independent review and replace it with political considerations.”
The Clean Energy Act, introduced Wednesday in the legislature, will eliminate the role of the Utilities Commission to provide independent public oversight on nearly all energy projects in the province including the controversial Site C dam, the Northwest Transmission Line, the Clean Power Call for private power, and many other costly initiatives like smart meters.
“The BCUC will be reduced to rubber stamping government plans, and forced to approve the massive rate hikes B.C. Hydro will need to fulfill B.C. Liberal cabinet orders,” said Horgan, noting that the act will allow cabinet to arbitrarily set targets for energy production, export limits, transmission lines and other spending initiatives.
“The B.C. Liberals have proven again that their word means nothing. They broke their promise not to bring in the HST, and they broke their promise to ratepayers to avoid political interference in Utilities Commission decisions,” said Horgan.
In November 2000, when the B.C. Liberals were in opposition, Gordon Campbell said “It’s critical that we restore the independence of the Utilities Commission to properly do its job on behalf of utilities and consumers alike without political interference. We intend to do that.”
“The premier and the B.C. Liberals have double-crossed British Columbians again,” said Horgan. “The new act sets the stage for legislated political interference. It seems the B.C. Liberals will stop at nothing to help their friends in the private power sector gain access to public resources for export and for private gain.
“This bill also reintegrates the B.C. Transmission Corporation and B.C. Hydro after the B.C. Liberals split up the crown corporations in 2003. That failed experiment is now being corrected at considerable cost, and the decision to turn B.C. Hydro into a clearing house for private profit will cost ratepayers a good deal more. B.C. Hydro must now assemble private power, firm and shape it, and export it to markets in the United States to the benefit of private corporations.”
Carole James and New Democrats have been holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for breaking their word on the HST, and for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education, and other vital services.