Yesterday VANOC announced that California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be a torchbearer on Feb. 12, the final day of the Coca Cola torch relay in Stanley Park. Can these Olympic games get any weirder?

According to the Vancouver Sun, “Premier Gordon Campbell invited Schwarzenegger to Vancouver for the Olympic Games, due in large part to the friendship they’ve formed through work on issues like climate change.”

Isn’t the Guvernator’s answer to climate change simply to install different engines into his fleet of Hummers?

Interestingly, Whistler shares a special bond with The Terminator.

B.C. Transit and senior levels of government wanted to make Whistler the northern terminus for Schwarzenegger’s Hydrogen Highway, and showcase it to the world during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The Greenest games ever? Not!

The 2010 Olympics have been touted by organizers as “the greenest games ever.” To date, Whistler has lost over 72% of its wetlands and a large tract of wildlife habitat to development.

In the summer of 2008, Nesters Wetland was cleared to house B.C’s new hydrogen refueling station. The irony of locating a “green” facility meant to showcase leading-edge environmental technology on top of a sensitive wetland is not lost on Whistler residents.

During the Olympics, Whistler will showcase its fleet of 20 hydrogen buses, purchased for $2.1 million each – four times the cost of a diesel bus, and the liquid hydrogen fuel is being transported via train by Montreal’s Air Equipe every two weeks.

To accommodate the influx of Olympic visitors, Whistler Transit will be operating about 135 buses – the bulk of which still operate on diesel. VANOC also rented buses to use during the games from as far away as Alabama and Wisconsin.

Project Background

• The new transit facility and hydrogen refueling station were built on a rare, red- listed wetland that contained endangered and/or threatened species.
• Since the wetland complex sits on land owned by Crown corporation, B.C. Hydro, the land is exempt from Resort Municipality of Whistler bylaws.
• B.C. Transit officials waited until mid-2008 to announce their desired site for the facility, giving them only 18 months to complete the project. On Aug. 19, 2008, Whistler council voted to give its half-hearted endorsement to the project. No other sites were seriously considered.

• BC Transit demonstrated total disrespect for the environment, and brutally cleared the wetland.  Proponents failed to carry out a proper environmental assessment and ignored the existing mammal and terrestrial vegetation inventories. The wetlands were home to beavers, otters, fish and birds. Several weeks ago, several otters were killed as they attempted to cross Highway 99 to access their native wetland.

B.C. Transit has promised to mitigate the environmental impact by recreating the wetland and by putting in a channel with continuous flow. I doubt we will ever see any mitigation – all talk no action.

•Ironically, the hydrogen station is located beside the Rainbow Sub-station owned by B.C. Hydro. Why wasn’t electric technology showcased during the Olympics?
•There are now plans to build a hydrogen liquifier plant in North Vancouver.

On Jan. 27, the Whistler Question reported that, “The total cost of the hydrogen bus project – including capital and operating costs until March 2014 – is $89.5 million. According to a Ministry of Transportation info sheet, Whistler’s share of that is $16.8 million. That’s in addition to the municipality’s $11.7 million share for the new transit yard.”

Hopefully Governor Schwarzeneger will visit Whistler during the Olympics to view the massive terminus, which local councillor Eckhard Zeidler has nicknamed “the Garage Mahal.”

The premature mass use of hydrogen buses at the Olympics is NOT the answer to our renewable energy woes. I think it’s all one huge, expensive boondoggle.

If our politicians were really interested in hosting the greenest games ever, they would have showcased electric or solar-powered vehicles, instead of adopting the status quo and driving GM’s fleet of 5,000 gas-guzzling SUVs.

To view before and after photos of Nesters Wetlands, please


Pina Belperio

Welcome to Word of the Rings, a new blog that aims to serve as a one-stop examination at what’s happening behind the scenes in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Pina...