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Fortis Okanagan Capacity Upgrade Project

DENIED by the BC Utilities Commission

December 22, 2023


Okanagan Capacity Upgrade Project

FortisBC's plan to increase capacity in the Okanagan by adding approximately 30 kilometers of new gas line was denied.   

"Accordingly, we deny the granting of a CPCN for the OCU Project at this time because we find it is not necessary for the public convenience and does not conserve the public interest."


The BCUC cited First Things First Okanagan in its ruling:  FTFO submits that local municipalities including Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton have created Climate Action Plans that are designed to respond to the need to meet climate targets outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the governments of BC and Canada. Of these, the more recent Vernon and Penticton Plans are explicit in recognizing the need to reduce natural gas use in buildings as a means of meeting targets.

FTFO argues that because a key emissions reduction strategy is reducing gas in buildings, it is likely these action plans will reduce future gas demand and thereby lend uncertainty to the need for the OCU Project.
FTFO further argues that although the ZCSC is optional, nine municipalities in BC have adopted it and others are working toward doing so and there is reason to believe that communities in the Okanagan will follow suit. FTFO points to what it describes as ambiguous statements made by FEI with respect to the uncertainty related to the possible impact of the ZCSC on future demand as statements that “weaken their predictions for future growth in gas demand and hence uncertainty as to the need for the OCU pipeline


FEI (FortisBC Energy Inc.) acknowledges that FTFO’s major concern with the proposal is that it does not take into account either local climate action plans or the ZCSC...FEI oints out that the OCU Project is designed to deal with peak demand, “community climate action plans are not currently anticipated to impact peak demand for gas in areas served by the OCU Project.”

Letters of comment were filed by 96 parties.

Your letters made a difference!

This is an extension of an existing gas system along Penticton’s eastern border, to extend from Ellis Creek north beyond Chute Lake. The project was submitted to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) in 2020 and a decision is anticipated in 2022. 

Communities in the Okanagan are expected to grow 40 % in the next two decades. The Okanagan Capacity Upgrade Project will allow Fortis to expand natural gas service to additional new subdivisions and residential areas in the future.

First Things First Okanagan was an intervener to challenge the project. We feel that expanding the capacity of gas in the Okanagan runs counter to the explicit goals of the City of Penticton, City of Kelowna, City of Vernon, and local Regional Districts' Community Climate Action Plans. 

Here's why we are opposed to the project:

Building new natural gas infrastructure runs counter to climate targets.

  • The City of Penticton’s climate goal is to reduce emissions below 2007 levels by at least 40% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 100% by 2050, creating energy efficient buildings powered, heated and cooled with 100% renewable energy.

  • Since natural gas is the source of approximately 92% of building emissions (City of Penticton Climate Action Plan. p. 21), restricting its use in new buildings is an important strategy to lower community emissions.

  • Our provincial CleanBC plan advocates a Net Zero energy future with little or no dependence on fossil fuels for home energy use.

  • Space and water heating represent about 85 per cent of residential greenhouse gas emissions and 68 per cent of commercial emissions. 1. Many jurisdictions in North America and Europe are restricting or banning fossil fuel-based heating in new home construction and replacing fossil fuels with electric heating to meet these targets.


  • Electrification of heating is considered a necessary part of the transition to net zero in Canada's building sector. Allowing increased fossil fuel infrastructure will make it more difficult to reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuel energy.


"Natural" gas is methane more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the climate system. 2

Most gas in Fortis's system is fracked gas from BC's northeast.  Fracking negatively affects the health of people and species, and the process permanently contaminates large amounts of water.


  • Fugitive emissions from the natural gas industry’s production, distribution, storage as well as leaks and incomplete combustion in stoves and furnaces, are a significant source of methane emissions.

  • In 2021, Canada and 80 other countries signed a Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions of methane by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030.


  • Fossil gas appliances have been implicated in exposing people to respiratory disease-triggering pollutants that lower indoor air quality.


  • Since furnaces and gas appliances are built to last twenty years or more, the FortisBC Okanagan Capacity Upgrade Project will deter homeowners from switching to emissions-free options.


The Fortis Okanagan Capacity Upgrade Project project is not needed, cannot ensure that GHG emissions will be reduced, and would unnecessarily expose a 30 km environmentally sensitive corridor to potential habitat degradation.

The Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states, "Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health...Any further delay...will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all." and the UN Security General says, “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”



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