Sink­ing feel­ing

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

Acon­tact is a con­tract.

How of­ten have we heard that about the lop­sided con­tract that gives most of the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits from Churchill Falls gen­er­at­ing sta­tion to Que­bec?

We’ve heard it from Hy­dro-Québec, from the Que­bec gov­ern­ment, from the Que­bec courts and from the Supreme Court of Canada.

Well, get ready, be­cause it sounds like we’re go­ing to hear that same sen­tence all over again. In Novem­ber, Nal­cor En­ergy’s boss, Stan Mar­shall, told the Cana­dian Press that the Muskrat Falls deal was a re­mark­ably bad bar­gain for this prov­ince, that the ar­range­ment whereby a Nova Sco­tia util­ity would build the Mar­itime Link in ex­change for elec­tri­cal power meant that prov­ince would pay “next to noth­ing” for power.

The story said Mar­shall main­tained that Nal­cor was talk­ing with Emera Inc. about chang­ing the terms of ex­ist­ing con­tracts for the Mar­itime Link.

Nei­ther the Nova Sco­tia De­part­ment of En­ergy nor Emera would talk about Mar­shall’s state­ments.

But in a tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence days later, NSP Mar­itime Link, the com­pany build­ing the link, clearly had other ideas about what might be on the ta­ble — and it wasn’t the ex­ist­ing con­tract for power.

Bill Ma­hody, Nova Sco­tia’s con­sumer ad­vo­cate, asked the com­pany di­rectly about the sug­ges­tion that con­tracts — and, there­fore, prices for Nova Sco­tia con­sumers — might change: “There’s been a re­port re­cently that Nal­cor, Mr. Mar­shall had an in­tent to at­tempt to rene­go­ti­ate some of the terms of the ar­range­ments with Emera. Is there any up­date you can pro­vide us in that re­gard?”

Richard Janega with NSP Mar­time Link Inc. was suc­cinct: “Yes, there is no ne­go­ti­a­tion of the Mar­itime Link or en­ergy agree­ment. There are dis­cus­sions that have been on­go­ing for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, ever since we started with the project, about the ex­cess en­ergy. And that is some­thing that we’ve been try­ing to get an un­der­stand­ing from Nal­cor of how much they have, what their most up­dated plan is for do­mes­tic con­sump­tion so it’s all been fo­cused on ex­cess en­ergy.”

To add in­sult to in­jury, the tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence — re­leased as part of a quar­terly up­date to the Nova Sco­tian pub­lic util­i­ties board — points out that the Mar­itime Link por­tion of the project is on time and on bud­get, some­thing Muskrat Falls can’t claim.

But worse: if the Mar­itime Link comes in at its es­ti­mated $1.577 bil­lion, the tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence was told by an NSP Mar­itime Link fi­nance of­fi­cial that Nova Sco­tian ratepay­ers will only pay for $1.555 bil­lion of the cost: “The dif­fer­ence there, the $22 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to our ar­range­ments with Nal­cor, would be an amount Nal­cor would then con­trib­ute such that the Nova Sco­tia cus­tomer would pay no more than $1.555 bil­lion.”

And we find this out be­cause the Nova Sco­tia pub­lic util­i­ties board or­dered reg­u­lar project up­dates. Our own board, you might re­mem­ber, isn’t even al­lowed to re­view Muskrat Falls or its costs. Sad.

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