A former chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) is praising that organization’s report — or the lack thereof — on the Muskrat Falls Project.
Speaking to the Rotary Club of St. John’s Northwest Tuesday afternoon, David Vardy said the PUB took the most reasonable option it could under the circumstances and he expressed his relief at this turn of events.
“My reaction was it was very positive. It was a really good approach in that it enabled us all to go back to first principles and fundamentally reassess where this project is heading. It set us back and it’s got us re-energized to look at other solutions and to find better approaches,” Vardy told The Telegram after the luncheon.
The PUB was commissioned last year to examine whether or not the Muskrat Falls hydro project was the best long-term option to power Newfoundland and Labrador until at least the early 2060s.
The PUB had once asked for an extension to its March 31 deadline, claiming it didn’t have enough time to complete the review, but it was refused. So instead of the report it was supposed to issue last Saturday the PUB released an explanation as to why it could not do so with the information it had.
“I thought the Public Utilities Board did this with a lot of premeditation, that they really thought through what they were doing. And they knew they were going to get a lot of flack,” said Vardy.
The PUB’s document prompted an angry response from the province and resulted in Premier Kathy Dunderdale announcing Monday Manitoba Hydro would get another shot at reviewing the project, this time with an expanded mandate to include natural gas and wind power in its study. Dunderdale also promised a summer sitting of the House of Assembly to debate the Muskrat Falls Project before a final decision is made in the fall.
Vardy said he is happy to see the direction the conversation has taken and praised Dunderdale for making the decisions she did.
“That’s indicating to me that they are prepared to be flexible. They are prepared to make some changes. That, I think, is very positive,” he said.
Vardy also added that, in his opinion, the PUB should be given another chance to go back and review the project properly, with up-to-date information and an appropriate timeframe before delivering its new report.
“Absolutely they should (re-commission the PUB). And they shouldn’t be afraid of it. Because if they are confident that Muskrat Falls is the best option, then it will win,” he said.
If that is done, he added, then there could be no question as to which option is the best for Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Once they’ve had the time to do it, and do it right, then we all have to shut up or put up,” he said.
Vardy has been an outspoken critic of the mandate previously given to the PUB for this report. He’s long called for the PUB to be given a full and sweeping mandate to study the project.
Those calls have earned him criticism in the past, including from former Premier Danny Williams.
Meanwhile, the provincial government is lashed out at the PUB. Premier Dunderdale said Tuesday the board “wasted $2 million,” by not completing its report.