Muskrat Falls prob­lems al­ready spelled out

The Compass - - OPINION - Edi­tor’s note: the fol­low­ing let­ter also ap­peared in the May 30, 2012 print edi­tion of The Tele­gram.

Dear edi­tor,

The only com­plete and cred­i­ble anal­y­sis of the Muskrat Falls project, as pro­posed by Nal­cor, was de­liv­ered by a provin­cial-fed­eral joint re­view panel that re­ported its find­ings in Au­gust of last year.

It is ex­tra­or­di­nary that this re­port, which se­verely ques­tions many of the project’s main el­e­ments, has been vir­tu­ally ig­nored by both the Dun­derdale and Harper ad­min­is­tra­tions that com­mis­sioned it. In much the same way the provin­cial Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board, which might be said to have a statu­tory duty to ad­vise/rule on this project, has been ef­fec­tively shunted aside as ir­rel­e­vant and unim­por­tant.

Most New­found­lan­ders are prob­a­bly un­aware that the panel “did not ac­cept” — its words — that devel­op­ing the hy­dro­elec­tric po­ten­tial of the lower Churchill River is a “need.” Or that Nal­cor’s anal­y­sis show­ing Muskrat as the best and least-cost way to meet do­mes­tic de­mand re­quire­ments was “in­ad­e­quate.”

There­fore, the panel called for “a new, in­de­pen­dent anal­y­sis based on eco­nomic, en­ergy and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions” to ad­dress “do­mes­tic de­mand pro­jec­tions, con­ser­va­tion and de­mand man­age­ment, al­ter­nate on-is­land en­ergy sources, the role of power from Churchill Falls and Nal­cor’s cost es­ti­mates and as­sump­tions.”

Hav­ing to ask th­ese ques­tions and more be­sides demon­strates the gross in­ad­e­quacy of the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Nal­cor in sup­port of the project and its huge $6.2-bil­lion ex­pen­di­ture re­quire­ment.

The panel also wanted the new in­de­pen­dent anal­y­sis — which, if it were done, would be car­ried our by com­pe­tent con­sul­tants com­pletely di­vorced from Nalor and its con­trac­tors — to con­sider “the pos­si­ble use of off­shore gas as a fuel” for Holy­rood, a huge is­sue where al­ter­na­tives to Muskrat are con­cerned.

A de­tailed gas pro­posal that could re­duce govern­ment bor­row­ing to the tune of serveral bil­lion dol­lars was ad­vanced by Stephen Bruneau of Memo­rial Univer­sity, but in the House of Assembly on March 29, it was re­jected out of hand.

When Lib­eral Leader Dwight Ball re­called that in 2007 the govern­ment’s en­ergy plan re­quired that com­pa­nies ap­ply­ing for off­shore per­mits pro­vide a “de­tailed land­ing-in-the-prov­ince op­tion for nat­u­ral gas,” and re­vealed that com­pressed gas ex­perts (the En­ersea com­pany of Hous­ton, Texas) were hired the same year to do a nat­u­ral gas study, very sur­pris­ingly Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy replied, “I am not aware of the study ...”

Are we to be­lieve that per­haps it has been kept from the min­is­ter, thus im­pair­ing his abil­ity to ad­e­quately deal with the file?

The provin­cial-fed­eral panel called, as well, for cash flow pro­jec­tions for Muskrat Falls and an ex­am­i­na­tion of the im­pli­ca­tions of the project for the prov­ince’s ratepay­ers and its reg­u­la­tory sys­tems. Th­ese are press­ing mat­ters.

Ex­actly how much money has the prov­ince put out, and will it be re­quired to put out in fu­ture, for this project? How will this af­fect the prov­ince’s abil­ity to meet all the var­i­ous needs of our peo­ple and the pub­lic debt? What re­ally will be the ef­fect on elec­tric­ity rates in New­found­land and Labrador? Are the dark hints of en­ergy short­falls, brown-outs and black-outs, re­al­ity or merely fear­mon­ger­ing on the part of govern­ment min­is­ters to help push the project through?

When the premier de­mands, as she did on the ra­dio re­cently, “What’s wrong with Nal­cor’s num­bers ... some­body show us,” the find­ings of the joint re­view panel are her an­swer. It is high time that she ac­knowl­edged that fact and acted ac­cord­ingly. Wil­liam R. Cal­la­han writes from

St. John’s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.