Consumer Advocate tests limits at PUB review

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Questions on C.B. Pulp and Paper, federal loan guarantee shot down

Consumer Advocate Thomas Johnson (right) is seen at the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities hearing room in St. John's.

Consumer Advocate Thomas Johnson is spending the day putting more questions on the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project to project leaders with Nalcor Energy.

You can watch his work live throughout the day.

Johnson began his asks at the first public meeting of the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) on Monday in St. John’s — part of the board’s Muskrat Falls review.

Even on the first day, he dug into key subjects, including the accuracy of cost predictions. However, he also asked questions wherein the answers would fall outside of his or the PUB’s jurisdiction.

One question was in regards to whether or not Nalcor had a prediction for the future of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. Specifically, he asked whether or not Nalcor had considered what happens if the mill shuts down.

Nalcor vice president Gilbert Bennett did not bite, dismissing any attempt at having the Crown corporation make a prediction as to the mill’s future.

“We have a customer that’s signalled to us they’ll continue to operate their business,” Bennett said.

However, he did say Nalcor has run scenarios as to how a sudden drop in demand, equal to the loss of major island industrial customers, would impact the project numbers.

This type of analysis was a way for Nalcor to consider contingencies that could apply to a variety of cases, “as opposed to identifying the future of particular customers in our forecast,” Bennett said.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Advocate later asked about the federal loan guarantee — posing a question put to him by a member of the public who was looking for further details on the loan.

A lawyer for Nalcor Energy quickly stepped in, noting negotiations around the loan guarantee were ongoing and remain the responsibility of government. Council for the PUB supported the statement.

Chair of the PUB, Andy Wells, acknowledged Johnson for taking his “best shot,” before encouraging him to move on.

In addition to his ongoing work in the public sessions, Johnson has posed more than 200 questions about the project in written correspondence with Nalcor prior to the public hearings. The questions, along with responses, are available on the PUB website.

Organizations: PUB, Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities

Geographic location: Falls

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    February 16, 2012 - 05:47

    How much does Andy get paid extra for these meetings or sitting on a board or any other hidden perks this position holds?

  • William Daniels
    February 14, 2012 - 18:09

    "A lawyer for Nalcor Energy quickly stepped in, noting negotiations around the loan guarantee were ongoing and remain the responsibility of government. Council for the PUB supported the statement." Interesting.

  • John Smith
    February 14, 2012 - 10:06

    What a farce this is, what a waste of money, all those questions have already been answered again and again. How many times do we have to hear the same questions asked?

    • Townie
      February 14, 2012 - 13:23

      Do you reckon Kathy.

  • MBC
    February 14, 2012 - 08:38

    WHY AREN'T THESE HEARING SHOWN ON LIVE TV SUCH AS ROGERS??? WE SHOWED THE CANCER AND COUGAR CRASH HEARING WHICH HAD IMPACT ON ONLY A PORTION OF NL. THIS NALCOR PROJECT WILL IMPACT EVERY SINGLE HOUSEHOLDER IN NL.