The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

SE-2: Hype and hypocrisy

A local (Abbotsford) story about Washington Governor Gary Locke's approval of the controversial Sumas Energy 2 natural-gas fired power plant.

Another from the Victoria Times-Colonist.

I sympathize with the denizens of the Fraser valley who aren't pleased with Washington State's approval of a new 660-megawatt gas-fired power plant just across the 49th in Sumas, Washington. Sort of. As for their representatives...

Of course, no-one is going to be pleased when a power plant comes to town, even if it's a relatively clean natural gas burner. But, in a way, they asked for it, and the hypocrisy that their representatives have shown is amazing.

First, Valley residents are overwhelmigly right-wing, if their voting means anything... and it does. In past federal or provincial elections, the Valley has gone for conservative-minded parties, often giving them over 60% support. In races where there are three or more parties, that's quite a vote of support.

There seems to be no qualms about voting for those who advocate turning farm land into housing, allowing lots of low-density development, building car-dependent communities that obviate mass transit, and loose environmental rules. Valley folk usually bristle at the thought of the government stepping in to force citizens or companies to change plans in order to presereve land, or water, or to keep the air clean.

Until now.

Now those self-same Fraser Valley politicians who usually are trying to roll back rules preventing the development of ecologially fragile areas, or even advocating the use of more coal-fired power plants in the case of the provincial government, are screaming about a new power plant -- now that it's in their back yard. Whatever happened to more power for growing communities? After all, those big new houses gobble a lot of juice to keep them lighted, and to run the appliances contained therein.

Yes, they're quite happy to sacrifice the environment -- look at all the arable land plowed under to biuld the subdivisions and gated communities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Matsqui. But put in a power plant next door, and watch the likes of John Van Dongen develop a green streak.

I wonder if the provincial government would be so opposed to a power plant proposed for an area that isn't traditionally supportive of the B.C. Liberal Party... like East Vancouver? Electoral politics couldn't have anything to do with it, could it? Of course not.

Granted, the Sumas Energy 2 plant will mostly sell its power into the United States, where the kind of development preferred in the Valley runs rampant. However, BC Hydro will buy power from the plant when it's worth their while to do so -- Hydro has a very active trading desk that buys and sells power in order to maximize its profits.

So, let me say that I find the protests of Valley politicans hollow and hypocritical. If they were to work for more space-efficient housing, energy conservation, and clean power, I might find their statements to be more than just hot air.

As for Governor Gary Locke's approval of the plant -- what else was he to do? Washington State needs electrical power, and Sumas Eneergy 2 can help fill the need. The plant's owners, NESCO of Kirkland, Washington, has taken a great deal of care to make sure that the plant would pass Washington State's approval process. Governor Locke works for the people of Washington, not B.C., and shouldn't be expected to really care about the bleatings of a bunch of Valley residents.

In fact, despite the concerns of some environmental activists, support for the Sumas 2 project is pretty solid south of the border. Business and labour groups in Whatcom county are supportive, as the plant will provide many jobs, especially in construction. The low Canadian dollar has meant that Whatcom County has suffered in recent years, as Canadian shoppers have stayed home. Sumas has particularly suffered, and many of the businesses that opened there in the late 1980's and early '90's have since been shuttered.

Sumas Mayor Bob Bromley said the governor's decision is another positive sign for the city, which has struggled recently under a fallen Canadian dollar and the resulting loss of local businesses. Bromley said he was confident Locke would approve the plant.

"I don't see how a project can meet every regulation and law and be turned down," Bromley said.

A quick shot at the main anti-SE2 lobby, a group that calls itself Generations against Senseless Power (GASP.) What, exactly, is senseless about power generation? It needs to be done, and natural gas is a helluva lot cleaner than coal. Or perhaps it's senseless because it's in their back yard.

Now be good children and turn out the lights when you're not using them. Maybe if you keep conserving electricity, there'll be less need for new power plants.

Wanna talk wind? I'm more than happy to...

Find out the American perspective in these stories from the Bellingham Herald:

Proposed plant faces Canadian test next
Governor approves SE2: Demand eases for new power plants
Full text of Gov. Gary Locke's letter on Sumas Energy 2
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