May 22, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Green Rift 

Has the Environmental Movement Been Torn Apart?

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Protter was transfixed.

"He powered himself and you had to leave your lights running all the time," he says.

Berube's home power station was something that stuck with him - 14 years later, after moving to Pemberton, he joined a community advisory committee analyzing development of a geothermal plant on Meager Creek. Later a hydro project broke ground on the Soo River and Protter wanted a piece of the action.

"I realized the green power revolution was verging upon us in B.C. but there didn't exist a single person with a local's perspective that actually had a voice within the industry," he wrote in a submission to Pique this year. "I decided to become one."

From there he began renting out his family's home in order to pursue an MBA at Simon Fraser University focusing on sustainable development. Living between a camper van and a converted barn outside his family home, he spent two years studying energy policy in jurisdictions throughout the world.

Much of his research culminated in a 203-page industry analysis that observed the private sector was primed to stimulate a sustainable energy industry in B.C. It predicted that the move to "independent power production" (IPP) would allow "universal access" to the province's transmission and distribution infrastructure.

From 2001 to 2003 he served as "green power champion" for the Independent Power Producers Association of BC (IPPBC), helping to advance "green power policy" within the province. He also served as the representative for the energy sector during community consultations towards the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP).

It was around this time that a public outcry began to erupt over the Ashlu Creek project in Squamish. Area residents and environmentalists worried that putting a project on the pristine river could knock over trees and deny recreational passage for kayakers.

Ashlu consultations were a catalyst for a jump in popular sentiment against IPP's, at least within the Sea to Sky region. People came to see the projects as intrusions on public resources - especially after the province used Bill 30 to override a local government's ability to veto them, regardless of public sentiment.

It sparked a furor that later carried over to a project slated for the Ryan River north of Pemberton. Protter is a consultant to developer Regional Power, and he says he's helping them design a project that will be "the world's best example yet of sustainable hydropower" - in effect, his magnum opus until he does something bigger.

Like the Ashlu, the project has met with considerable opposition from environmentalists within the corridor. Some worry it will impact a grizzly habitat - others oppose it for the same reasons they would any other project.

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