More crit­i­cism of Muskrat Falls pro­ject

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

Dear edi­tor:

Nal­cor pres­i­dent Ed Martin re­cently spent two-and-a-half hours on VOCM Open Line try­ing to sell the Muskrat Falls deal to New­found­lan­ders. At more than $500,000 a year in salary, ben­e­fits and bonuses (The Tele­gram, May 15, 2010), he seems like a pretty ex­pen­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions per­son for Premier Kathy Dun­derdale.

It begs the ques­tion: why is she not tak­ing ques­tions and ex­plain­ing why we should let our en­ergy prices dou­ble while we sell the same power to peo­ple in the Mar­itimes for half price? The de­ci­sion to pro­ceed with Muskrat Falls is a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion and it should be the politi­cians who have to an­swer for it, not Mr. Martin, who re­ports to the premier.

How­ever, since the premier isn’t tak­ing ques­tions on her $6.2 bil­lion pro­ject, let me run a cou­ple of things by Mr. Martin. On sev­eral oc­ca­sions in the me­dia, in­clud­ing on CBC Here & Now, NTV’s Is­sues & An­swers and CBC Ra­dio Noon, I’ve heard Mr. Martin of­fer con­flict­ing state­ments about the pur­pose of the Mar­itime Link and why this prov­ince has agreed to give free power to Emera En­ergy of Nova Scotia for 35 years.

On some oc­ca­sions, Mr. Martin has char­ac­ter­ized it as a trade-off: They get our power for free in re­turn for let­ting us use their line to ex­port power into the Mar­itimes and New Eng­land. When it is pointed out that Nal­cor has no ad­vance power pur­chase agree­ments in place, which is very un­usual for a pro­ject of this size, Mr. Martin has replied that Nal­cor doesn’t want to sign such deals with en­ergy buy­ers out­side the prov­ince be­cause at some point Nal­cor may want to re­tain all of Muskrat‘s power here at home.

If we in­tend to even­tu­ally keep all that power for our­selves — though I don’t know where the de­mand is go­ing to come from to sup­port that — why did Ms. Dun­derdale and Nal­cor agree to give Emera free power for 35 years? Why give away free power for 35 years if we may not use the Mar­itime Link, or only use it for a few years?

I would also like to point out that Ver­mont Gov­er­nor Peter Shum­lin re­cently told CBC Ra­dio Noon that cur­rently there is no trans­mis­sion ca­pac­ity to move power from Labrador into New Eng­land. We heard a sim­i­lar thing last fall when Emera ad­mit­ted that in or­der to trans­mit Muskrat Falls power into New Eng­land, hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in in­fra­struc­ture up­grades would be needed and that they’re not sure it’s worth it for them to do that.

The more likely sce­nario is that Emera will buy all our ex­cess power for use in Nova Scotia where they are try­ing to get off coal as their main source of en­ergy. In that case, Emera will get 20 per cent of Muskrat’s power for free and pay mar­ket prices of two to nine cents per kilo­watt hour for the rest while con­sumers here in New­found­land will be forced to pay 14.3 cents per kilo­watt hour.

I ask Mr. Martin: since the premier is not tak­ing ques­tions, why should we, the own­ers of the power, pay twice as much for our own power as peo­ple in Nova Scotia, who won’t have to bor­row a cent to fi­nance this pro­ject? Mr. Martin, why did you agree to this give­away? Paul R. Bald­win

Car­bon­ear

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