UPDATE: Presenters suggest there are flaws in Muskrat Falls development plan

James McLeod
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The PUB review into Muskrat Falls today is seeing participants overwhelmingly oppose the project.

Only a handful of people have come forward to present at the public hearings but, with only a couple exceptions, presenters saw flaws with the proposed hydroelectric project.

Two of the consistent themes from Monday and today have been a call to look at natural gas as an energy alternative, and questions about whether the province can get by until the Upper Churchill power plant comes back into the province's possession in 2041.

Former Liberal MHA Danny Dumaresque made the point about the Upper Churchill this morning.

Through the two days of public hearings this week, there have been ongoing rumblings from presenters that the scope of the PUB review is too narrow, and too rushed.

A Holyrood resident who lives near the current Bunker C diesel power plant, and a representative from the province's oil industry have both endorsed the project.

During a break in proceedings this morning, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael delivered a letter to the PUB stating she would not participate because she would not be allowed to talk about alternative energy sources, such as wind power.

Later today, Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones will be presenting. Jones has been one of the project's most vocal critics for more than a year.

The PUB will file a final report by the end of March, determining whether Muskrat Falls is a cheaper source of electricity than an isolated island alternative using thermal generation.

More coverage in Wednesday’s print edition.




The PUB review kicked off its second day of public hearings this week with opposing presentations on the project.

Former Liberal MHA Danny Dumaresque talked about the Upper Churchill contract expiring in 2041. Dumaresque argued that the Upper Churchill should play a role in long-term planning.

Robert Cadigan, speaking on behalf of the Newfoundland Oil Industry Association, largely endorsed the project. Cadigan said that the Muskrat development will be good for business, and good for industry in the province.

Later today, both Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones and NDP Leader Lorraine Michael will be at the PUB to talk about the project.



Members of the public got their first chance to speak directly to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) Monday as part of its review of the Muskrat Falls project. But among the people speaking Monday, one of the common themes was that the PUB review process is fundamentally flawed.

“The deck is stacked right now because you’re dealing with two options and the reality is that there’s any number of options and it’s ill advised for us to only consider two options,” said David Vardy, a former PUB chairman who made a presentation Monday. “There’s not enough attention paid to the different options, and not enough time for the process.”

Cabot Martin, a vocal advocate for natural gas as an alternative source of electricity complained that the process is “fatally” flawed, because under the current terms of reference, he wasn’t allowed to speak about what he called “the least-cost option of all” — importing natural gas.

“It was very problematic because I wasn’t allowed to talk about bringing in imported natural gas from the United States for Holyrood,” he said. “I couldn’t talk about that; I couldn’t talk about White Rose gas which I think has long term industrial benefits.”

The PUB has been charged with studying the Muskrat Falls project is a cheaper source of electricity than an isolated island option involving thermal generation at Holyrood.

The board was asked for a three-month extension to fully examine the question, but Natural Resource Minister Jerome Kennedy denied it, saying its report absolutely has to be completed by the end of March.

Vardy and Ron Penney, another former bureaucrat, argued the PUB should recommend taking more time to fully study Muskrat Falls before giving it the green light.

“We recognize that the board is severely constrained by both the terms of reference and by the refusal of the government to give the board the time it needs to do the job,” Penney said. “While the board has to make an uncomfortable choice between only two options, it is our hope that the issue of the right timing be addressed.”

Penney argued that by developing several smaller hydroelectric projects on the island, the province can properly satisfy its electricity needs for another 3-5 years, and use that time to fully examine all the options.

During Vardy and Penney’s presentation, Nalcor lawyer Thomas O’Reilly cut in, saying that some of what Penney was outside the core question that the PUB is studying.

O’Reilly said they were taking an “elastic view of what the terms of reference encompass.”

Fred Winsor, speaking for the Sierra Club, also said the PUB review is “essentially broken” because it doesn’t take into consideration other small-power options such as wind power and geothermal generation.

The only unambiguous supporter of Muskrat Falls Monday was Tracy Walzthoni, a Holyrood resident who said she’s deeply concerned about the current generating station’s emissions.

Walzthoni described the smoke coming out of the Holyrood facility — which burns Bunker C diesel — and how the health worries loom over her family.

She said she’s done research into the specific pollutants coming out of the facility, and the risks they pose.

“There’s nothing really healthy that comes out of the stacks,” she said. “It’s kind of scary when you look at those things and know that they’re coming out.”

Today, the Muskrat Falls PUB review continues for a second day with a markedly more political tone. Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones will present to the Board, as well as former Liberal MHA Danny Dumaresque.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael is refusing to participate in the process because she believes the scope of the review is too narrow. She will be showing up today anyway, though, to read a letter to members of the media explaining her reasons for not participating.


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Organizations: Public Utilities Board, United States for Holyrood, Holyrood.The board Sierra Club

Geographic location: White Rose, Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Louie
    February 21, 2012 - 10:50

    The political agenda is to build an NL energy warehouse to compete head on with Quebec. The present PUB process of option comparison is flawed in not considering delivery of free Upper Chuchill power to NL in 2041.When the PUB rubber stamps the project the problem becomes the competition, the Quebec energy warehouse. HQ is presently building the Romaine River project with 1500 MW for a price tag of 6.2 billion. We are commiting 6.2 billion to put about 400 MW in our warehouse to sell on the mainland in competition with HQ. Our cost looks like about four times that of the competitor. Where will the cash shortfall be made up? It could be by injection of oil revenues and increase in NL rate payer rates, or both. We need to find out the overall impact on the tax payer before we get too far along with this project.

  • Jon
    February 21, 2012 - 10:39

    When is Danny Dumaresque going to get it that no one cares what he thinks anymore. How many people voted for him last election? The fact that he wasn't elected should scream to him to shut his yapper.

    • Eli
      February 21, 2012 - 11:19

      Well now JON, just how would you vote when the governing party is spending lavishly in your district? In case you're not awake yet it's called buying people with their own money. Come budget time we'll pay for that largess in spades. I'm no Dumersque fan but he's right. Your alarm clock didn't go off this morning.

  • BR
    February 21, 2012 - 10:34

    Govt wouldn't agree to an extension. Martin can't talk about options. Nalcor lawyer says Penney was outside the core question. Something smells fishy here, and I have no Febreeze with me.

  • Harvey
    February 21, 2012 - 10:16

    Danny Dumeresque...please give up...no one listens to your tripe any more.We remember your calculations . About the Atlantic Accord...utter nonsense then, utter nonsense now.

  • dickie
    February 21, 2012 - 10:16

    They can argue aboiut this for another 10 years. It's party politics. I say get on with it

  • redrantingtory
    February 21, 2012 - 10:14

    I seem to remember the same opposition to Hibernia. We were all going to go bankrupt for develpoing it. Hibernia was the best move this province ever made. Why is it that other areas of the world can develope large projects of Hydro and other infrastructure and we can't? Because we have the political naysayers in it for political gain and people who are opposing for the sake of opposing governments. I have not heard one good valid reason for to not do this project now. The opponents say use other sources of power such and wind, solar, and natural gas. With solar and wind you need serious back up power to fill in the times it's not at it's peak like windless days and dark nights. So you need a power plant that's able to take care of the whole system. Another Holyrood only bigger. Natural Gas is another dream that's not possible right now. The cost of infrastructure to aquire it, bring it in from the ocean or ship it from anywhere is astronomical. In the end it as been proven that we need an excess of power in the next 10 to 15 years and I'm sure we will need it into the next decades. The price of oil is going up therefore your eletrical bill will go up. Look back at the last 30 years and see how much your bill as gone up? There will be increases no matter what. So in the end we develope this project. Just imagine us having control over our hydro electricity and just imagine when the Upper Churchill comes back to us in 30 odd years? We will be the masters of our own and not be held down and hogtied by Quebec. That alone is enough reason for me to support this project. We need to keep developing these projects if we are to sustain our growth into the future. I'm tired of people who know very little about this granstanding as if they were experts. I tend to believe the people we have intrusted with this. Why would any Newfoundlander sell us out especially after the Upper Churchill fiasco. No one wants that legacy but I feel more than a few will have the legacy of opposing this project in the future when it is held up as a great success. North America is Hungry for power from any resource especially clean hydro. If we want to attract big business we need the power to drive them.

    • Eli
      February 21, 2012 - 11:26

      Tell me more about this "proven that we need an excess of power in the next 10 to 15 years"? I'm all ears. The people favouring this deal regardless of it's financial consequences are the contractors & associates standing in the wings with their hands out.

    • redrantingtory
      February 21, 2012 - 12:09

      My dear Eli, where do you think the power is going to come from to run the Long Harbour Hydromet facility, the new iron ore mining developement in Labrador, plus all the other mining and commercial developements around the province? Where do you think the power is going to come from to power all the new homes brought on by industry? In case you haven't heard our power demand is right now at it's limit and we need more just to keep households from blackouts in the next 10 to 15 years. If we did nothing and had no comercial developement we still would need more power in the future. How do we attract big business to this isolated island if we don't have the power to support them? How nearsighted some people are just because their political agenda is on the opposing side of this.. Yeah lets not develope and lets all sit back and ask where are the jobs? Why isn't the government supporting us? why is the government neglecting my area? where is my job? Where is my check? Strange how when the government tries to do something about this we get all kinds of opposing ideas with no merit. We need to get out of this hole we are in and this is but one way to do it. If not, lets go back to begging for a few jobs, scraps and handouts. Lets go back to accepting our EI check every week for part of the year. This is another step to us standing on our own and providing a future for the next generation. If we don't then don't expect that generation to stay and live on EI and make work projects. Don't complain about lack of jobs and don't complain about out migrations because if we don't develope we stagnate into the same old routine of have not forever.

    • Eli
      February 21, 2012 - 13:10

      Right b'y. We develop or stagnate. It's why we're still paying for Churchill Falls. And by the way, there's no market for all this excess energy Muskrat will bring us (at huge debt). The Yanks havn't signed on to to anything from us and it's doubtful they will with the cheaper prices they'll get from Emera and Hydro Quebec.

  • Pete
    February 21, 2012 - 09:48

    And where does Danny Dumeresque get his expertise on this matter? We all have opinions...but not all of us are trying to push them down others throats. When will Danny D realize that no one listens to him, never did, never will!

    • Eli
      February 21, 2012 - 14:22

      Same question for Kennedy and Dunderdale. Where do THEY get their expertise? The late Judge Hughes would disagree with anything Kennedy says and Dunderdale was APPOINTED by Dangerous Dan.

  • Carl
    February 21, 2012 - 09:41

    Does anybody care what DD thinks about anything anymore? Leave the opinions to current elected officials and the experts Mr. Dumaresque.

  • Muskrats on Koolaid
    February 21, 2012 - 09:37

    There's a lawyer for nalcor at these hearings that restrict what the presenter's can talk about and question here? And this the process? Oh my god! This crowd has tunnel vision and has done more to try and cloud the core questions then answer any. Wake up newfoundland, this isn't a deal and isn't based on taxpayers best interest. There's more than 1 way to skin a muskrat, but i wouldn't take a muskrats word on how to do it either.

  • David Wilson
    February 21, 2012 - 09:12

    It is not possible to retrofit the Holyrood Geothermal Generating Plant and have zero emissions. Even emissions from a modified Holyrood Plant will have negative effects on the environment and on the safety of people who live nearby. Sure Nalcor will flood a bit of land upstream of Muskrat Falls for the reservoir and cut down many many hectares of trees for the transmission line corridor. Permanently closing down the Holyrood Plant has to happen, it is only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs during the delivery and offloading of Bunker C at Holyrood and then Conception Bay is ruined for generations. Hydroelectric power is the cleanest greenest power source available and is the only option. Lets got on with it!!!!!

  • Calvin
    February 21, 2012 - 09:05

    Another point to add here John Smith. People are acting like Newfoundland is making a mistake because the price of oil may not be as high in the next 5-10 years. How is it that people cant see past the next decade? When oil starts to run out, and it is going to in our lifetime, what will we be paying for electricity then? Yes, Muskrat Falls is going to cause a steap incline in rates over the next decade. Then we may not see another sharp increase for over 50 years!!!!! How is this being overlooked?

    • Brett
      February 21, 2012 - 10:12

      Calvin - people can't see beyond their own immediate benefit. I like to just find out how over budget the project will be vs. how over budget this approval process is. This stonewalling/delaying is more about politics than about pros and cons.

  • roy
    February 21, 2012 - 08:59

    Don't let the noisy minority rule the day, they did it with gun registry and they tried it with the outer ring road they would have you back in the dark ages, horse and buggy, kerosene lamps etc. There are always certain groups against everything the battle of Foxtrap when they tried to stop the train, i could go on. Don't let them rule the day. As for Mr. Martin he is out for his benefit, he has interest in oil and will be looking to you the taxpayer for handouts ot get whatever he wants, let him prove his ideas with facts and figures, of course he will want your money to do it

  • John Smith
    February 21, 2012 - 07:24

    Well, why doesn't Mr. Martin explain to us, to you and me how importing gas from the states would work, and how much it would cost? He has the ear of many media outlets, he has a video on the CBC site, and is quoted in this paper every week. Explain to me Mr. Martin how much it would cost to convert the plant in holyrood. Explain how you would transport the high pressure LNG across borders, how would you get it from the grand banks to holyrood? How long would it last? The other guys want us to spend hundreds of millions on small projects, just to get us 3 years down the road?? I mean are these guys for real? We have had report after report. We have had Navigant, MHI, Wade Locke all saying this project should go ahead. Then we have these guys. I think I know who I trust more.