STAN MARSHALL IMPRESSES LESS AND LESS

The construction industry continues to hum
throughout the province during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some big projects enjoy
no interruption, including Memorial’s Science Building. Then, too, the line-ups
at COSTCO confirm the daily congregation of 300-400 customers and staff. In
proportion, Walmart and Dominion Stores are equally well populated; all have
implemented physical distancing measures.

In contrast, the Muskrat Falls project is dormant.
Laden under $13 billion of debt (likely, more) Nalcor executives cannot employ
even the management skills of a Walmart “Greeter” to keep the operation
running.

“The safety of our workers and their families, our
communities, and the public is of utmost importance to us,” read the Nalcor
Press Release, as if the Corporation was gifted with an innate higher claim standard
to social responsibility than do others.

The Muskrat Falls project, set up more like a
small town than a construction site, is perfectly suited to having work
continue under protocols designed for social distancing. Problem is, it
requires a plan. It needs someone with the leadership skills to work out a
solution. That’s one issue.

The Muskrat Falls Project is in deep financial
trouble. The sheer mass of Muskrat debt makes solvency, without a big federal
bail-out, all but impossible. Still, that is not a reason for Nalcor management
take a nap as they use the COVID-19 pandemic to cover for their mismanagement.

This problem brings us to a third issue – the cost
of the Project continues skyward; the truth of the cost overruns completely
undetermined. Nalcor retains a large office staff and the Project retains well
over a hundred high paid consultants – virtually all of them making, annually, $250,000
– $500,000 (some even more). Are they still on the project? Have any been laid
off? What is the plan to get them off the payroll?  




Interest costs, alone, including Emera’s 8.4%
return on investment, represents well in excess of $500 million per annum. That’s
nearly $1.4 million per day. Nalcor confirms that 500 people were still working
on the project – 350 people still living in the camps prior to shut-down. The
camp is a major expense when, likely, local facilities, including vacant hotel
rooms, suffice to provide domestic services for the final completion and
commissioning stages. 

Nalcor CEO, Stan Marshall

Nalcor has announced no plans for when camp
demolition will begin. Other contractor costs continue, too. There is no
accounting for how much.

If Nalcor was a private company, you can bet your
booties they would be moving their butts faster than a Texas posse to get the
job done. As it stands, being squandered is a massive amount of public money as
Stan Marshall and Gilbert Bennett take a COVID hiatus, with no end in sight.

In theory, a well-run construction site, using workers
first quarantined in hotels for two weeks, could easily have kept the project
going. The plan would include testing for the coronavirus prior to quarantine
and at the camp site. The cooperation of the Union would be necessary but, with
bonuses on tap for those willing to work for extended periods, it is hard to
imagine they would not be cooperative.  The
cost of such a plan would be far less than the several million per day in
interest, administrative and myriad other costs that a dormant site now runs
through.

The Muskrat Falls powerhouse is many times larger
than COSTCO; Muskrat offers a far better environment for physical distancing,
too. The workers – managers, tradespeople, security, cleaners, cooks, drivers
and a host of other occupations – relatively few are found at any single
location. The site can operate 24-7 on a three or four-shift basis to reduce
social contact. It is as ideal as any construction site; better than most. If
MARCO can finish the Science Building on Price Philip Drive, Nalcor ought to
have been capable of running a safe construction site, too. 

Likely, in the way of such a plan is OPM – other
people’s money – and the knowledge that there are no consequences for those in
charge.

Granted, even if the powerhouse was completed, the
synchronous condensers aren’t installed properly. The software needed to run
the LIL transmission line is still being written. A great deal of work remains.
The hemorrhaging of public money continues.

Undoubtedly, the public is in a different space. COVID-19
demands their attention. Unfortunately, they have no leadership – union,
business or politician – to ask the most basic questions for them: why can’t
someone competent be found to get this job finished? Why can’t the public receive
a new cost forecast? (For sure $12.7 billion is not the correct number.) Why
can’t the second most basic element of any construction project – schedule – be
spoken of, either?

Every day, CEO Stan Marshall impresses less and
less.

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.

THE PROOF MUSKRAT FALLS IS NOVA SCOTIA’S PROJECT

The substance of Hydro’s mission is to satisfy the contracts with Emera to get large amounts of power flowing into Nova Scotia for the betterment of that province and its ratepayers.  The Island could easily live without the Muskrat Fals project and in fact, other than for the onerous Emera contracts, NL ratepayers would be best off if it was abandoned and left to rust.

FIRST YEAR OF OFFICIAL ENERGY DELIVERY NOT QUITE WHAT EMERA BARGAINED FOR

PlanetNL52: Happy Anniversary Emera on 1 Year of Official Energy Delivery Not Quite What Emera Bargained For Despite all the bad news related to Labrador Island...

GROUP SEEKS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CABOT MARTIN RESEARCH AWARD

Cabot Martin’s sudden passing, in September, has stirred his friends, colleagues, and others familiar with his work, to honor him and encourage continued work in applied research and public policy development.