Court challenge to Muskrat Falls launched

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Groups claim environmental review panel failed in its duties

Construction of a dam at Muskrat Falls is one piece of the Muskrat Falls project. The project also includes building a new backbone line for power along much of the province and a power link between the island and Labrador, across the Strait of Belle Isle. - Telegram file photo

Despite the release of the Lower Churchill project from environmental assessment Thursday, there is still a Federal Court challenge to the project outstanding.

The groups who have filed the challenge are reminding all parties this morning. They include Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, the Sierra Club of Canada and NunatuKavut Community Council, the latter representing Métis in Central and Southern Labrador.

All documents from the joint review panel’s work are available here.

In their Notice of Application — filed in December 2011 and included as part of a news release today — the groups claim the Government of Canada and specifically the joint provincial-federal environmental review panel working on behalf of the Canada Environmental Assessment Agency failed “to assess or incorrectly or unreasonably assessed” several key points in regards to the project.

Specifically, they highlight potential cumulative effects of the dam projects at Muskrat Falls and Gull Island, when considered with other elements of proponent Nalcor Energy’s plans for supplying power to the province. These additional elements would include new transmission lines.

The groups also claim potential alternatives to the hydro power plans have not been presented or considered.

“The report concluded that the Lower Churchill Generation Project would result in significant adverse environmental effects. However, as a result of the Joint Review Panel’s failure to complete an assessment of alternatives to the project, the report failed to provide an informed rationale or conclusion regarding whether these significant adverse environmental effects would be justified in the circumstances,” the application reads.

The groups also claim a “failure to hold hearings in a manner that offered the public an opportunity to participate in an assessment of cumulative environmental effects and of alternatives to the project” and that the panel “failed to take into account relevant considerations and took irrelevant considerations into account.”

Read more about the approval of the Muskrat Falls project.

More in tomorrow’s Telegram.


Organizations: Sierra Club, NunatuKavut Community Council, Canada Environmental Assessment Agency

Geographic location: Canada, Southern Labrador, Gull Island

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Recent comments

  • Paul
    March 22, 2012 - 18:16

    Having glanced over the comments on this story I noticed a lot of #'s thrown around and only 1 comment that even touched upon the environmental side of the issue! Sadly it was condemning those who oppose is as being backwoods nut-cases pretty much. I guess those hicks must have a loose nut or two eh?!? Ya, let's lay down, roll over and play dead, the most important thing is not the environment as long as we have cheap electricity to cook the poisoned marine life and plenty of sandbars to put the beach chairs on while we draw deep breaths of sewage on those hot, dusty days (in the Valley) and all the new found land (sand bars) created by the sand choked water from the DAM. And that Harvey guy seems to think that just because the Innu PC member elected is in favour of it that all Aboriginals are in favour are apples too, must have spent most of his early life (if not all) being a homeboy. Having only gone out on the land harbouring a grudge for being there. Sad state of affairs!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 16, 2012 - 17:10

    Nalcor's reference to a 40 year, average 2.3% annual compound growth rate has been part of its media presentations (both April and July 2011). It has been used by Ed Martin in his public presentation during Nalcor's last year's Annual Meeting and often referred when they claim that their go-forward forecast of 0.8% is therefore "conservative".

  • Cyril Rogers
    March 16, 2012 - 16:27

    John, I am not wrong and the only way NALCOR can come up with these kinds of projections is if they go back to 1970 and base their projections on historical patterns. The problem, as Mr. Adams has frequently pointed out, is that consumption peaked in 1989 and has been on a downward trend ever since. Why would we suddenly have an increased demand, other than for the VAle project and we already have sufficient capacity to deal with that. We are being sold out by the manipulation of numbers that are no longer relevant. The essay by Dr. David Vardy outlines the energy consumption patterns going back to 1970 and I base my argument on that information. If you can't find it on NALCOR's site, it may be that they have removed it. I couldn't find it there either but the information is available elsewhere.

  • John Smith
    March 16, 2012 - 16:23

    Just as I debate...becuse you can't. You can't debate because you can't defend the undefendable, there are no alternatives that are viable. The more you attack me the weaker you look.

    • Carol Ann Rogers
      March 17, 2012 - 06:33

      John, maybe "just a thought" should have stayed that way? What is your undefendable point? Who is attacking you and looking weaker? You really need to make a point and stick to it.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 16, 2012 - 15:00

    Excerpt from Nalcor's PUB Exhibit 103 (Years 2001 - 2010) QUOTE: Island Peak Demand (MW) 1,435 +++1,592 +++1,595+++ 1,598+++ 1,595+++ 1,517+++ 1,540+++ 1,520+++ 1,601+++ 1,478 UNQUOTE. +++++++ The island's net capacity of 1,958 MW is readily available on dozens of Nalcor's documents. So we are well below our existing 'net' capacity. ++++++ The 694 GWh spillage info can be found in Newfoundland Power's quarterly reports. +++++ The reference to Nalcor having to continue spilling until Vale comes on stream can be found in one of Nalcor's PUB exhibits (but I would need to review to get the exhibit number).

    • Fred Penner
      March 16, 2012 - 17:53

      Still misrepresenting the facts I see. Just out of curiousity...what was the net spillage this year?

  • Scott Free
    March 16, 2012 - 14:56

    Maggie Carter is awesome; well-spoken, and right on! and you sir, John Smith, are a lap-dog, lackie; a sad and pathetic follower of Little Man Dan.

  • Maggy Carter
    March 16, 2012 - 14:44

    Yes, I know how a debate is supposed to work John but it bears no resemblance to what you've been up to - or more correctly put up to - these past six months. Your posts are filled with half-truths and outright lies. Worse still is your character assassination of anyone who points to the gaps and inaccuracies in your daily diatribe. The anonymity of these boards is a wonderful thing for political hacks and agencies like Nalcor. It allows them to vilify their critics in a way they could never do openly. It is their way of discouraging debate. An unprecedented number of highly educated, experienced professionals have had the courage to question this project publicly, and each of them in turn has been subjected to abuse from nasty, nameless phantoms like you. And no doubt it has worked. Government has succeeded in stifling public input and debate on the single largest investment ever contemplated by this province. Many conscientious objectors to Muskrat have simply thrown up their hands, more especially now that they witness how easily even an expert review by governments' own environmental panel can be dismissed by those governments without even a pretext of responding to the issues raised in their report. Yes John, you might be able to con some people into thinking you're an ordinary citizen but anyone following your posts is well aware that you're being handed information directly from government. My hat is off to those people like Maurice Adams and Cyril Rodgers who have stood up to your abuse all these months in what Randy Simms and many others see as a lost cause.

  • John Smith
    March 16, 2012 - 14:32

    Cyril, that is blatantly untrue. Nalcor did not go back that far, as can be seen on their site. What it does show is a constant increase in power usage over a period of time. Are you guys for real? You want us to conserve our way into the future? While the rest of the country steams ahead? Our oil resources are not going to last forever, we will need power for the future, conserving our way out of this is totally absurd.

  • Louie
    March 16, 2012 - 14:30

    Muskrat is the least cost of the one option being driven by government. It should be presented to the taxpayers for what it is, a bold plan to warehouse energy for sale on the mainland, etc. Taxpayers should be made aware that they will subsidize power sold at less than development cost until some time in the distant future, possibly on or after 2041, it can compete with mainland rates. Why hide the game plan? Those who must pony up under the take or pay contract should know exactly what is in store for them. There will be no monetary return for the great benefits which will be bestiowed upon Nova Scotia and Mainland canda from this project.

  • Cyril Rogers
    March 16, 2012 - 14:21

    Mr. Adams gets his information from the NALCOR and Newfoundland Hydro site, as far as I know. I have never seen his figures disputed by them so one has to accept that they are accurate. As for excessive rain in the past three or four years, what is so unusual about that? We live in one of the wettest places on the planet. That is more the norm than anything to the contrary. On the other hand, NALCOR had to go back over 40 years to justify its projections of a 2% increase annually. As Mr. Adams has pointed out, the actual increases over the past 20 years have been virtually stagnant, mainly due to population declines and paper mill shutdowns. Given that Corner Brook is likely to shut down within a decade, where will the demand for power come from? Conservation can reduce the future needs and we will continue to suffer population declines so there will be no need there. As for major industry coming here, why would they? Our future is in smaller-scale ventures but our politicans still dream of rubber-boot factories.

    • Joe Ryan
      March 16, 2012 - 14:43

      So the Nalcor figures that Maurice uses are okay but the Nalcor figures that support the project are not okay. It's beginning sound like everyone in this debate is playing with numbers. There's only two things that seems consistent: that price of electricity is going to go through the roof no matter what we do, and you can't trust anything anybody says about the options.

  • John Smith
    March 16, 2012 - 13:29

    Maggy...the way a debate works is you say what was wrong with my info, and then I can debate that with you. I am just a citizen, honestly, and a poor one at that...LOL I have no agenda other than the truth. I have always welcomed rational debate on this topic, and continue to do so. Maggy, don't attcak me, attack what I me where the project is so bad...convince me that you know the answer...that you are right...and I am wrong.

  • Harvey
    March 16, 2012 - 13:25

    Presently, I do not support the P.C. gov't of NL.However, I do support the Muskrat Falls development. The groups opposing it talk about environmental issues!!! Should we not be bringing in clean energy to help save the planet from environmental disaster? I thought things had been pretty much cleared with aboriginal people of Labrador. What a tangled web some try to weave!!!

  • Maggy Carter
    March 16, 2012 - 12:36

    Well John, we don't know where Maurice gets his information but we definitely know where you get yours. Not only do you have Ed Martin, Jerome Kennedy and Kathy Dunderdale on speed dial, but they get copies of their reports and press releases to you before they're made public. And why wouldn't they? You're doing such a great job deceiving the public on virtually every aspect of this monstrously bad project. You're a real popinjay, regurgitating every bit of garbage fed to you. You're like the robocall of the print media - a hired gun whose only job it is to misdirect the public. But they're getting to the bottom of robocall and one day in the not too distant future we'll find out who you are and how much public money you received for your tireless campaign of disinformation. It will be too late of course to save the province from the largest financial disaster since the Upper Churchill, but at least we'll know who it was this time that sold it out for their thirty pieces of silver.

  • paul
    March 16, 2012 - 12:25

    Here we go again, having to suffer through one of Mauricie's half informed opinions again. This guy must get a few tid bits from someone and runs off to try and make something exciting of it, while at the same time just makes nonsence of it. Does this fellow think that newfouundland is going to stand still? Does he knowthat if we had an abundace of power we may have an abundance of industry moving in here. He mentions Holyrood station, how absolite can you get, ask the people who live inC.B.S. I.. I am glad that Maurice has nothing to do with the Muskrat Falls project. GO AWAY MAURICE, NOBODY IS LISTENING AND DO YOU NEED THAT MUCH ATTENTION?

  • Fed Up
    March 16, 2012 - 12:18

    It doesn't matter what we want or say...The powers that be will only do what's going to benifit them..& Election we should make them Liable for their Promises and Justify their Big Wages

  • Jeff
    March 16, 2012 - 11:54

    I agree 110% with Maurice E. Adams. It seems everyone in the free world except Kennedy, dunderdale, and Ed Martin are severley opposed to this project, yet Kennedy will not even talk about it. every report thay had commission so far said the project it good but they all forgot to include things, like the cost of the transmission line, etc???? We are already billions in debt in a time when we are a "have " province and should be debt free. This project, before it is completed will cost at least $20 billion with cost overuns, you know it will, that will put us 25 - 30 bILLION in debt. the fishery is not doing well, and if the cost of oil should go down and the cost of minerals, where will we be then. I will never live long enough to see this debt paid down and I fear for my children and grand children. They are pushing this through too hard and too fast. There is more to this that the public eye sees. This NEEDS to be stopped or we will never, ever get out of debt. If we need some more power, toss up a few windmills. Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the rare places in the world where everywhere in our province is a great location for a windmill. I have read the reports on them and it would be perfect, but as per Maurice's letter above WE DON'T EVEN NEED THE POWER!!! Why are we even doing this??????? they are telling us as a result our residential power bills are going to double or triple, our deficit is going to triple and everyone involved is going to have free or cheap electricity except anyone on the island, Why are we even doing this?????????

  • John Smith
    March 16, 2012 - 11:41

    Maurice where do you get your information? I would like to know. Can you provide me with the link that shows how much energy we used in the last six years, and how much water was spilled? One of the things that I do know is that water spillage at hydro sites depends not upon how much power is used or generated, but on how much rain and runoff there is. If the amount of water is beyond the capacity of the dam then we have no choice but to spill it. We have just had 2 or3 years where we have had a lot of rainfall, and so the watersheds are full. if we have a few seasons where water is low, then the opposite would be true. It is not difficult to discern from your comment that you have a hate on for former Premier Williams. Is that the real motivation behind the non stop lies and innuendo that you continue to vomit onto these forums? Are we to belive that Nalcor, Navigant, and MHI all lied, and are in a big conspiracy? MHI even said Nalcor is underestimating future power requirements. Our bills have risen by 60% since 1998... that is a fact Maurice. As far as this idiotic challenge by the enviromentalists I say to them...Where do you get your power? When you turn on your lights, and turn on your TV, and reach over and turn up the electric heat, where do you think the electricity comes from? Buterflies and rainbows? Give me a break!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 16, 2012 - 10:46

    Do we need the power? ++++++ Over the last 6 years on average more than 1/3rd of our "existing" NET capacity has gone UNUSED ---- YEAR OVER YEAR, EVERY YEAR +++++ Last year we spilled 694 GWh from our existing island hydro sites --- because we have no demand for it.+++++++ We NEED Vale's plant to come on stream just to use up what we are now spilling (and we still have 1/3rd unused). +++++ So we will spend (go in debt) an additional $7-$12 billion for power WE DO NOT NEED. +++++ Even Holyrood is used less than 15%. ++++++ Even during the worst winter months, Holyrood is used on average only 44% (down from 50%). ++++++ Now we will pay billions, go in debt billions, to get 40% of Muskrat's energy (1,800 GWh). That is 1,200 GWh LESS THAN Holyrood's net capacity. ++++++ A lot of money, a lot of debt, and a lot of risk to replace 60% of what a fully paid for Holyrood asset already provides. Emera gets 20% for free, Western Labrador mining giants (Danny's clients) get 40% for much less than cost ----- and the island? we get to pay for the works, pay for all the cost overruns, take all the risk, take on the debt, force our kids to pay off OUR debt over 50 years, pay increased rates, --- and what do we get ? less than 2/3rd's the power that Holyrood already provides. ++++++ We end up with less capacity than we start with.