Danny Williams defends Muskrat as questions swirl

James
James McLeod
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to the media outside the House of Assembly on Tuesday afternoon on the ongoing debate about the Muskrat Falls energy project. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Tuesday morning, the big guns came out in defence of Muskrat Falls.

Former premier Danny Williams publicly attacked the province's Public Utilities Board (PUB), and renewed his support for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

“When I read the report brought down by the PUB, I was deeply disappointed in the indecisive nature of the report; and more so I was troubled by the conclusions put forward by the board largely based on opinions of private citizens as opposed to the experts at Nalcor and Manitoba Hydro,” Williams said in a news release.

“I have a serious concern that the PUB quotes extensively the personal opinions of former bureaucrats and academia, while ignoring the world-class experts at Nalcor.”

Williams has been largely silent since he resigned from office, shortly after signing the deal to develop the Muskrat Falls project.

On Monday, the government released the PUB report which said that outdated, preliminary numbers on the Muskrat Falls project weren't good enough.

The board said after studying data provided by Nalcor, and assessed by the consultant they hired, Manitoba Hydro International (MHI), it couldn't say for certain whether Muskrat Falls is the cheapest option for electricity.

In the wake of the report being released Monday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale moved to bolster support for the project.

Once the province has all of its most up-to-date information on the project in June, she said, the government will make that information public and get MHI to study it.

Once MHI makes its final report, Dunderdale promised she would call back MHAs and open the House of Assembly for a debate on the issue.

Tuesday afternoon all three parties promised it would be a free vote.

Dunderdale said Tuesday that her confidence in the PUB — the province's independent, quasi-judicial utilities regulator — had been “undermined” in that they refused to say whether Muskrat Falls is the best option for electricity.

At the same time, opposition politicians were crying foul, as it became clear the government won't be doing studies on natural gas and wind power.

Monday, Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy said he had asked for Calgary-based Ziff Energy to look at natural gas.

“We have indicated that we will provide studies on natural gas and wind, Mr. Speaker,” Kennedy said.

On Tuesday, Dunderdale indicated that the work being done “is not a study, it is a report” and that Ziff has already made it clear to Kennedy that they don't believe natural gas is the best option.

“When the minister met with Ziff, and they laid out clearly that natural gas is not an option here, I said to the minster, can we get them to do a report?” Dunderdale said. “Because if we get somebody from away to say it, maybe these people will accept it.”

That didn't sit well with NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.

“What the premier promised in the House (Monday) would be that there would be studies done with regard to the alternatives, and she named wind and she named gas,” she said.

Both Dunderdale and Williams said too much credence is being given critics with no credentials, while the “world-class” expertise at Nalcor is being ignored.

During question period in the House, Ball pushed for the PUB to get another chance to look at the project after all the final numbers have been drawn up in June. Dunderdale made it clear that's not going to happen.

Ball pointed out that the cost estimates the PUB was working from were very rough, and refined estimates could be up to 50 per cent higher or 30 per cent lower.

“To me, that's a back-of-the-envelope type budget. You can't use that for financing. So I think the people of the province and the PUB in this case, they have a right to know how much this project is going to cost,” Ball said. “I was more comfortable with Muskrat Falls a year ago than I am today, simply because of all the questions that are coming forward.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, Manitoba Hydro International, Ziff Energy

Geographic location: Manitoba

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Recent comments

  • Edward sawdon
    April 06, 2012 - 00:04

    Yes Danny Williams is critical on the PUB's Muscrat Falls Report, but I would ike to see our province's former premier to weigh in on the Harper Government's decision to close the St. John's SAR Co-ordination Centre; the Harper Conservative's plan to cut the federal public service, especially when it relates to Fisheries and Oceans; and Service Canada in the province; plus call for a Judicial Inquiry into the region's SAR Operations and how they didn't prevent the Burton WintersTragedy? And, will Danny Williams call for a "ABC" campaigh in the 2015 Federal Election?

  • Cyril Rogers
    April 04, 2012 - 19:10

    I would suspect that many of the critics are just as knowledgeable as Minister Kennedy, who has no expertise in this field but is constanly trying to promote it just because he "thinks" it is in our best interests. In truth, the lawyers in the PC government, didn't even have the expertise to properly expropriate the Grand Falls Mill so I would suspect they know even less about hydro. Most of us critics don't know about the technical aspects of the Muskrat Falls power development but we don't need a calculator to know that 6000 is ten times more than 600. If the Premier could be so wrong on such a simple matter when it comes to the size of the federal public service in this province, I am very doubtful if I would trust her, or any of them, on numbers like 6 billion or possibly a lot more. The real issue here is that the govenment was trying to manipulate the PUB into making a forced decision while lacking the necessary information from NALCOR. Right now, they should be going back to the PUB and asking them to properly fulfil their mandate by a comprehensive review of all potential alternatives, with no strings attached. Anything less, will be just a sham like their prior directives.

  • Stephen Melamed
    April 04, 2012 - 16:24

    i was wondering where andy wells was,keeping quiet during danny's term. now he's,andy, back to his old tricks,expressing his opinion publicly, on matters he pretends to know something about. the professionals(experts) have given a report and recommendations based on their expertise. let's not turn this into another political football and loose a great opportunity for newfoundland and labrador. we need a new source of power to be generated,let's get on with it and not have another missed opportunity because of petty politics..

  • johnny fitts
    April 04, 2012 - 14:35

    Maybe dean mcdonald should run for the liberals and for danny. Come in and push it thru and quit. Let em put their own money into such a crappy deal if its so great. That's how they stay rich...by spending others hard earned money. The liberals won't get 1 vote from me with dean macdonald, that party has been down hill since he joined it and I know can see why now. And the people who support it, it think...don't know enough about. Look at their pathic comments.

  • David
    April 04, 2012 - 13:41

    It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the Pipsqueek with the Giant Ego!

  • Holy Muskrat Full of Holes
    April 04, 2012 - 13:31

    So she will make the information public in June (maybe) but she's paying a Hydro company from a prairie province in western Canada to make the final decision on our province's power rates and debt. Then she will hold a “free” vote where her PC "Party" will all stand up and sell us out for a few shillings. The premier says our Public Utilities Board “refused” to make a decision while everyone else understands that they “couldn’t” make a decision based on the restrictions and censorship that she herself imposed on them. She designed it to happen and in true bully fashion, she blamed somebody else. Fair? Not likely. She has also decided not to resubmit to the PUB. Is that even legal? People who say when you’re in government you can do just what you like are sure not kidding.

  • McLovin
    April 04, 2012 - 12:21

    What credentials do Dunderdale, Kennedy, Williams, MacDonald et all have to comment on the viability of natural gas or wind power? They are being awful hypocritical if you ask me. Their credentials are no more credible than the people who are coming out against Muskrat Falls. Yes Danny and Dean are successful businessmen but that doesn't make them experts in Hydroelectricity, Wind Power or Natural Gas. They are only going on the opinions of NALCOR but what do they know about Natural Gas or Wind Power? Their sepcialty is in Hydroelectricity and of course they are going to recommend that as the best option because it is what they know and are good at.

    • Juwal
      April 04, 2012 - 14:35

      I see all the PC haters are out in full force today.Guess the complaint, oops sorry , talk shows are over for today. Get real people.This project is good for the province and for our future generations and it will go ahead despite all the naysayers.

    • Fogell
      April 04, 2012 - 15:03

      Not quite the same. The government and Nalcor have no shortage of engineers, statisticians, economists, accountants, etc that they can call on. It puts them at an advantage when they have a team with credentials. What resources do the opponents have? Very little and almost none with credentials. But that doesn't mean people can't have questions or opinions.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 04, 2012 - 11:10

    Subsidies???? In order for Muskrat Falls to 'appear' viable, in the first 12 years of the Muskrat Falls contract, rates to you and I will be subsidized by the province to the tune of about $2.8 BILLION. ........ (that's how Nalcor makes rates in the early years seem low).... Nalcor has said however that it is NOT FOREGOING any return on equity, it is merely "DEFERRING" that return so that future generations will have to pay it..... that is what Nalcor calls 'inter-generational' equity......Now, think about it. Is that a Newfoundland and Labrador "value"? --- for our generation to 'force' our own children and grandchildren into a 50-year 'take or pay' contract SO THAT 'WE' CAN HAVE CHEAPER RATES 'NOW' FOR POWER THAT WE DON'T EVEN NEED AND ABOUT 85% OF THE COST OF WHICH (OUR RATES) WILL HAVE TO BE SUBSIDIZED BY OUR OWN TAX DOLLARS --- and which later be recovered from our own children and grandchildren?.... a great money maker for someone ---- but not for our future, and not for our kids and grand kids. ..... Think about it. Since the real cost of Muskrat Falls power is about 37cents/KWh to bring to the Avalon (not counting cost overruns, increased debt servicing costs, etc.), how is it that Nalcor says you and I will only pay 15 or 16 cents/HWh???? ..... There is a big gap there.... Who is paying the rest?

  • John Smith
    April 04, 2012 - 10:48

    There you go...ten or twelve comments and not a word about the merits of the development...just seething hatred for the most popular prermier in Canadian history...amazing. I guess its true, the few remaining liberals in the province don't care about Muskrat falls, or anything else. What they want is retribution for what they think the premier did to their party...devistated it...they were at 6% in the polls at one point. The deep rooted hatred blinds them, all they want is to see anything to do with the former Premier, or the PC party shot down in flames. They could care less about what we need, or what would be best for us. Interesting to Hear Dean Macdonald on the news last night saying that he thinks the fact there are several disgruntled, (some fired) employees on the PUB was the reason they would never in a million years give the thumbs up to anything Nalcor ever tried to do. Now I know why the opposition wanted this review to go to the PUB, and why Navigant, and MHI just would not do. Yep. all becoming clear to me.

  • sealcove
    April 04, 2012 - 10:23

    I see the bully back in town, Of his meds again

  • Hook up the cables
    April 04, 2012 - 10:21

    Danny, Cathy, Ed and Dean are all correct. Muskrat Falls is the right option to pursue for Newfoundland. Unfortunately like all other projects that will see the benefits to NLders. The typiclal negative armchair critics in NL are against this. The have nots know nots are home on their arse listening to open line programs and the negative image they portray and can't see the forest for the trees. Oh yea lets not do it and beg the federal goverment for subsidies and handouts to pay our power bills in 25 years like our present fishery. We need to stand out for a change and take charge for ourselves stop the stigmatization that comes with NL as a EI and Gov subsidized province and finally do something that requires risks and big benefits. If we could put as much energy into solutions for making this work and stop the silly bantering /guess work about why it can't. All our lives and our childrens will be much better off. Hook up the cables Ed lets move on.

  • muskrat in the room
    April 04, 2012 - 08:40

    The torys should give as much consideration on dans opinion as they gave to another former tory premier who's been out of the loop for much too long.

  • muskrat water board
    April 04, 2012 - 08:33

    It seems this unprogressive government, if it can't get a deal all it has left is to bully or spew out untruths about the deal...they learned it from the best, as we all seen yesterday. Muskrat is like a ufo that's only been seen by danny and cathy and her bobblers want us all to wish it was real. But it ain't. Even the spins put on it now are redickulass!@#$%%^

  • D. Maria Paul
    April 04, 2012 - 08:18

    Lord and Master Williams broke through the clouds, just in time for the Easter rising, in his attempt to shine gloriously, again. Why is it he feels his intervention is the end all and be all. Does he believe his hold on NL is so strong that his very words can cause them all to bow in humility. We're still wondering - some of us - why the sudden exit when he announced retirement from the provincial government?

  • Darren
    April 04, 2012 - 08:16

    If your doctor diagnosed you with a serious disease, would you just take his/her word for it, or would you seek a second, third and forth opinion if necessary. Premier Dunderdale seems to believe that Nalcor is the only group capable of running the numbers (unless you count the companies the NL government paid for a favourable report). By the way, are these world class experts at Nalcor the same ones who prematurely expropriated the paper mill in Grand Falls?

  • Scott Free
    April 04, 2012 - 07:57

    Are we sure they are world class experts at NALCOR? Political patronage appointies handed plum positions without competitive hiring practices is more like it.

    • Jed
      April 04, 2012 - 08:34

      SCOTT FREE, what you're describing there is what got Jerome Kennedy in deep doo-doo with the local Bar Association via Judge Hughes. Turns out his clear as a bell argument in that case was "taken out of context". In my day he'd be called a "yella' belly".

  • Eli
    April 04, 2012 - 07:53

    Can anyone is his/her right mind imagine Danny Williams or Jerome Kennedy defending a case where the crown forbids them to ask questions pertinent to their case. Something about "a hole big enough to drive a truck through" comes to mind.

  • Muskrat lawyer purple file
    April 04, 2012 - 07:22

    What danny don't realize is its alot like the application they sent to gov for the ice caps subsidy, its incomplete! We have gov, kenndy and cathy, talking from both sides of their mouths, like always, and even accusing naysayers of bullying. lol Even Dean Mcdonald, a tory in liberal clothing and dans personal mole, came out of nowhere with his buddys nod. Don't worry, That won't make people vote liberal and he should resign from the party over this. How many other studies have been bought and paid in this disengenious style? This is a deal out of spite and a chance for a limited few to profit. And if this deal is so good for the province why is so much such trouble gone into hiding it. STOP WASTING THE PEOPLES TIME AND MONEY. This government has turned us into the laughing stock of canada and are alot like the kardasians, lots of our money and no talent .

  • Jim
    April 04, 2012 - 07:15

    Has anyone questioned the relationship with Wells and Former City top employee Ron Penney?

  • Skeptic
    April 04, 2012 - 07:10

    World class experts at NALCOR. I can accept that but I would like to know the criteria for making that statement. I thought Danny said in 2007, he would not be a former premier in the news all the time after he retired.

  • Frank M
    April 04, 2012 - 07:07

    The vote on the special debate will not change anything, given the Progressive Conservative majority. What the debate will do is provide an opportunity for more questions to be asked and possibly help decide blame if the project becomes a financial debacle. Danny Williams and his number two, Dean MacDonald, clearly believe the project is in their best interests. Lorraine Michael supported the project at first, but has now realized the controversey. No one knows what Dwight Ball is really about as he is constantly outdone by Yvonne Jones. What is of most concern is the public of Newfoundland and Labrador has serious questions that do remain unanswered. Mr. Williams' cult of personality should not be a reason to follow political decisions without scrutiny.