Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No stretch to think bipole hearings a sham

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DEAR EDITOR,

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Manitoba Hydro and the provincial government are finally being called to task on their "playing fast and loose with environmental assessment" of Bipole III (Bipole III going nowhere fast, Nov. 13).

Manitobans might think the current Clean Environment Commission hearings are looking at an objective and comprehensive environmental assessment of technically feasible routes for Bipole III. Not so.

A proper environmental study of alternative routes would have included the assessment of a wide range of potential impacts for routes on both the east and west sides of the province, particularly as related to First Nations concerns.

Environmental, socioeconomic, engineering and cost factors would have undergone a rational process of analysis resulting in an objective decision on a preferred route.

The possible impact of an eastern route on a proposed UNESCO heritage site would have been rated and assessed just like any other potential impact.

Impacts on farmland would not carry the same weight as impacts on garter snakes. Political considerations would not play any part. American environmental organizations would not have a role.

A comprehensive environmental impact study has never been undertaken for Bipole III. This is because the provincial government stepped in and, with no study and for whatever misguided reasons, simply ruled out an eastern route, which Manitoba Hydro had always considered a viable option.

In the current Bipole III hearings, "Need for and Alternatives to" (NFAAT), system reliability, and an east-side routing option have all been ruled off the table by the CEC. As such, it is not too far a stretch to think the current hearings are a sham.

The government decided some time ago what it wants, and unless there is a huge outpouring of public opposition to the deeply flawed process presently underway, neither the weight of technical expertise, nor spending an unnecessary extra billion dollars, nor a pesky CEC hearing is going to make this government admit it made a mistake.

ROBERT FOSTER

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2012 A11

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