MUSKRAT FALLS: A HERITAGE PROJECT?

Guest Post Written by
Ron Penney
In his continuing
defense of the Muskrat Falls project, the Consumer Advocate has described the
Muskrat Falls project as a “heritage project.”
My fellow
“naysayer”, David Vardy, and I had great hopes when we met with the
Consumer Advocate following the announcement of the reference to the Public
Utilities Board.
The reference followed
our request to the then Minister of Natural Resources, Shawn Skinner, to lift
the exemption of the project from the purview of the Public Utilities Board.
While a reference wasn’t what we asked for we felt that it was a positive
response and there is no question that a lot of information came out of the
process.
At our meeting, the
Consumer Advocate outlined a process which would allow for public input into
his representation of the public before the Public Utilities Board. That never
happened and instead he followed his own inclinations and became a strong
advocate for the project.

Given what has occurred
on the cost and schedule of the project most of the supporters have at least
had the decency to stay quiet. Even their website “We believe in the
Power” has all but  disappeared from
cyberspace although some enterprising sleuths have managed to unearth it.

When the Consumer
Advocate uses the term “heritage project” he means it in a positive
sense, but of course heritage includes both the good and the bad. Commission of
Government is part of our heritage, for example, as is the Upper Churchill.
So certainly Muskrat
Falls will be part of our heritage. The question is will it be viewed
positively or negatively in 100 years time.
We won’t have to wait
that long a time to make that assessment. In less than 25 years, the Upper
Churchill contract will come to an end. At that time we will have access to
very cheap power, far less than what Muskrat Falls power will cost us.
But because of Muskrat
Falls, we won’t be able to take advantage of the end of the contract. Instead
we will be yoked to paying more than double our present electricity rates to
pay for the Muskrat Falls “boondoggle”. And the only prospective
purchaser for Upper Churchill power in 2041 will be Hydro Quebec.
We have been very badly
served by the Consumer Advocate and he should have the decency to admit he made
a terrible mistake by being a cheerleader for this project rather continue to
defend it. The new Nalcor CEO has it exactly right and I place much more stock
in his assessment than that of the Consumer Advocate, as should we all.
There is a direct
result of how the Consumer Advocate is appointed. The appointment is made by
government. Even with the new appointment process to be followed by the new
administration, the appointment will be made by government. Instead the
appointment should be made by an independent body chaired by the Chief Justice.
The essential problem
with the project is that it was based on the idea that we would show Quebec
that we could bypass them and get power to market. Instead we have undertaken a
project which, together with our dire financial situation, may well lead to our
demise as a self governing people for the second time.
We ought to have
realized that we had a short term energy problem not a long term one. The
public policy issue was how to get to 2041. And the solution to that problem
would have involved the refurbishment of Holyrood, which we will have to do
anyway to ensure reliability once Muskrat Falls starts to produce power,
together with conservation and small hydro projects.
Muskrat Falls was a
response to our long term energy needs when we already had a solution to that
issue in less than 25 years. It was a solution to a problem which we didn’t
have.
It will prove to be the
worst public policy decision made in our history. That will be the
“heritage” which the Consumer Advocate, and others, will be
remembered for in 25 years time.
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Agree wholeheartedly, except for the new CEO's view that stopping the dam/powerhouse/spillway is not a viable option — not even worthy of a benefit/cost analysis.

    We have replaced the original one-person, take your pick — Danny or Ed, (non evidence-based) position and spin with another, take your pick — Dwight or Stan.

    Once again, this time, we ourselves (no one else) is stopping NL citizens from benefiting from our long overdue right — multi billion dollar benefit from the Upper Churchill in 2041 — just 20 years after a debt ridden Muskrat dam/generation plant will lock into extremely high cost power until 2067 or longer.

    What a travesty —- and if ratepayers/taxpayers/voters do not speak up, we will have done it to ourselves. We must stop blaming others. Maurice Adams

  2. I want every penny that is showing up as being spent thus far on the Muskrat Falls boondoggle of a contract to be accounted for in a report from the Auditor General. We should not accept anything less.

  3. Indeed the "Public Advocate" not taking citizen input into his PUB submission disqualifies him from claiming a public function. He was and remains a shameless booster of this ecologic and economic disaster that may well bankrupt the province. He also acts with colonial contempt for the legitimate concerns of the Labrador First Nations.

    Why did he maintain credibility and respect in the dialogue for this long? Why is he still tolerated as a "Public Advocate"?

    Why does the whole sordid mess remain cloaked in secrecy? Why is there not a demand from every quarter to see the contracts and engineering plans NOW, before another 10 billion flies out the door and your public services wither?

    The problem is systemic and fundamental. Transparency and accountability is the lifeblood of a democracy. Yours is gasping for breath. An open public accounting of Muskrat Falls was denied from the outset. Any solution must include demands that the public–not their sham faux advocates– have access to the Muskrat Falls contracts and engineering. Now!

    Being passive while democratic controls are stripped away by demagogues is a recipe for disaster. Muskrat Falls is a case in point.

    .

  4. What is current status of negotiations to resolve age old issues between Quebec and NL?
    Border, 5 stranded rivers, water rights on the Churchill, power recall, mediation?

    Has NL left the table? for what?

  5. The present process of appointments involves a so called independent panel chaired by Clyde Wells. While Mr Wells is a very competent person, would he be suitable for such an appointment as the Consumer Advocate.
    We presently have Stan Marshall and John Green involved with Nalcor who wish to continue with Muskrat Falls. They are both prior Fortis people. Clyde Wells was once the CEO or chairman of Nfld Power, and it seems suitable to ask if he has a financial interest in Fortis. Wells was a Liberal Premier and appointed by the present Liberal Premier , Mr Ball. Mr Wells did seem to do a good job on the Access to Information review last year.
    You suggest The Chief Justice appoint a Consumer Advocate…. seems appropriate, I guess…. and who is the Chief Justice.

  6. You mention that we have a short term energy problem, and offered the solution of some more island hydro generation and conservation, and upgrading for Holyrood. You are correct, but seemed to overlook the value of adding some more wind generation. Wind is not a firm capacity source, and at present we have only 54MW, 2 percent of our total. Manitoba Hydro pointed out that this could increase to 10 percent, meaning another 100 MW, and maybe as much as 150 MW more wind. The value is to offset oil burning at peak loads times, and is competitive as to cost. Given our realisation that our forecasting was much too high, this is an important component of supply should Muskrat Falls be mothballed. Wind here has a 43 percent capacity factor, meaning on average it can deliver 43 percent of its rated capacity. Of course this volume of wind generation was ignored pre Muskrat Falls sanction, being another false assumption on their part.
    Another issue is the promotion of energy efficiency. Most jurisdictions, the conflict of interest by power companies who want to sell more power to generate more revenue, is acknowledged as contradictory to aggressive conservation and energy efficiency. The solution is separate Efficiency Corporations to handle this, with mandated governments directives.
    I am amazed at how long this approach has been ignored here yet has worked so well in most other jurisdictions to help keep power bills in check.

    Winston Adams

  7. Looks like BC will soon join us with a similarly sized hydro boondoggle since their government is intent on going ahead with its Site C dam. A key difference though is they have nine times our population so they can absorb it:

    From the Times Colonist:
    " There’s nothing theoretical about the harm that could result from the Site C dam, though.

    The estimated construction cost is $8.8 billion, the biggest outlay of public funds in B.C.’s history. And does anyone believe that cost won’t go higher? Projects of this scope seldom stay within the budget.

    The dam is expected to lose $800 million in its first four years of production, because it will generate more power than the province needs at three times the market rate, so the electricity will be have to be sold at a huge loss.

    At a time when climate change and other factors raise concerns about our food supply, the dam will flood 107 kilometres of the Peace River and take 13,000 hectares of agricultural land out of production. It will irreversibly alter ecosystems and wildlife habitat. The project has serious ramifications for First Nations’ rights and territories.

    A joint federal-provincial panel appointed to review the Site C dam said it didn’t have the time or resources to properly analyze project costs and couldn’t determine if the dam is needed. It recommended that the project be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

    The B.C. Liberal government has decided to go ahead with the project without further review, despite the recommendations of its own expert panel, a decision the head of the panel called “a dereliction of duty.”

    Source– http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-site-c-damage-is-not-theoretical-1.2302664

  8. 99.999999 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and their province will be completely bankrupted after this boondoggle known as Muskrat Falls is declared finished, if it ever will be. It is shocking what the greedy type will do to ruin the masses' lives. This project was foisted upon the province of Newfoundland and Labrador by the greedy type without much attention paid to the severe problems that were going to be created from the project NOT being thought through properly. Immediately, Our province needs very capable and honest overseers put in place to guide those who are governing our province. That is quite evident given the way our province has been ruled over for the past 67 years of complete squandering of our natural resource base and as a result our human resource base. We have at least a million of our native born and their offspring living in other parts of Canada and other places simply because of the way our natural resources were spent and the fact our citizens have had to follow the tail of their natural resources to find work. Someone please STOP this STUPIDITY and devise a plan to put an end to the bad governance Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have had to be endure.