Published on February 21, 2012
Presenters at the Public Utilities Board review of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project chat during a break in proceedings Monday. From left, John Carter, David Vardy and Ron Penney gave presentations Tuesday. Danny Dumaresque (right) will be presenting today. —Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
Published on February 21, 2012
Public Utilities Board chairman Andy Wells takes his seat Monday following a break in proceedings in the Muskrat Falls public review. —Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
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.