Muskrat Falls in Federal Court today

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Lower Churchill project being challenged on claims of faulty environmental assessment

The proposed Lower Churchill hydro project will be discussed at Federal Court in Ottawa today, as a legal case launched before the project was released from environmental assessment is heard.

The case began with a complaint from Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, the Sierra Club of Canada and the NunatuKavut Community Council, the latter representing Métis in Central and Southern Labrador.

The groups have stated they feel government was not legally in a position to release the heart of the hydro project — the dams at Muskrat Falls and Gull Island — from further environmental assessment, as was done on March 15, 2012.

In their Notice of Application, filed in December 2011, they claimed the Government of Canada and specifically the joint provincial-federal environmental review panel working on behalf of the Canada Environmental Assessment Agency had failed "to assess or incorrectly or unreasonably assessed" several key points relating to the project.

Specifically, say the claimants, potential cumulative effects of the dam projects were not considered alongside other project elements, including transmission lines and the Labrador Island Link. These project pieces are subject to their own environmental reviews.

The groups have also stated alternatives were not properly explored before the environmental review panel released the project.

This morning, the NunatuKavut Community Council issued a news release asking no Federal permits and no loan guarantee be issued for the project at this point.

“We depend on bodies like the joint review panel, when government does not uphold its obligations to us as aboriginal peoples,” stated president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, Todd Russell.

“Many times our aboriginal group has to put its trust in an independent process like the joint review panel. We strongly feel that the (panel) did not do all of the work required to fulfill its mandate and we are the ones left to suffer because of it.”

Meanwhile, lawyers with Ecojustice have taken on both Grand Riverkeeper Labrador and the Sierra Club of Canada as clients for the case.

The Telegram spoke with Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro in March, when she warned Nalcor Energy was taking a risk in moving the project forward while the issues relating to the environmental assessment process were still outstanding.

“If the Government of Canada issues a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill project without the review panel completing its assessment, we believe that loan guarantee would be unlawful,” Tessaro stated in a notice of the case issued Friday.

“We want the panel to finish the job it was tasked to do, and until that happens, we believe the federal government does not have the legal right to support the project with permits or funding.”

"Given the significant environment harms that will be caused by the Lower Churchill project,  we believe that the panel must go back and assess whether the project is even needed or justified —  or whether Newfoundland and Labrador should pursue better, greener alternatives like tidal and wind energy instead," stated John Bennett, executive director of Sierra Club Canada.

The case is scheduled to be heard today through Wednesday and The Telegram will have more in tomorrow’s edition.

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

Geographic location: Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, Ottawa, Canada

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Recent comments

  • HopeTheyWin
    November 27, 2012 - 00:00

    This should never have been rammed thru by Harper after it was turned down by the joint environmental review panel. Harper changed the legislation to ram this project thru.

  • Tim Jamison
    November 26, 2012 - 13:27

    This court case is going to work out the same way the long gun registry court case worked out. It's politcal garbage and it's going to be tossed out

  • Maggy Carter
    November 26, 2012 - 11:43

    You heard it here first folks. There is trouble in paradise - or at least the facade of paradise that NALCOR and Dunderdale have tried to maintain around this Muskrat boondoggle. Like others, I have observed in the past that all is not right with negotiations on the federal loan guarantee. That should hardly surprise us given its obvious lack of viability and creditworthiness. If the feds decide they want out, they could easily do so by attaching two simple conditions to the guarantee. First, that it is conditional on a hard and fast commitment from EMERA for the Nova Scotia link (which commitment is still subject to URB review and government approval in that province). The second is that, as urged by the CTF, Democracy Watch and countless groups and individuals in this province, Muskrat must first be resubmitted to the PUB for review. Taken together, these conditions would likely spell the end of Muskrat in the manner and form proposed by NALCOR. Incidentally, what better evidence that the guarantee talks are on the rocks than today's flip-floppery from government sock-puppet, shill, hack and junk-yard crackie John Smith. This is the same anonymous toad who first touted the guarantee as worth six hundred million or more. Now its down to three or less. If NALCOR's unofficial spokesman - the guy who passes himself off under a dozen different aliases including 'God Guard Thee' - is now saying we should skip the guarantee, you can bet there is trouble in paradise. How ironic that the ordinary taxpayers of this province might yet be saved from sixty more years of hydro-electric giveaways and oppressive utility bills by a federal government and a prime minister that has, until now, showed nothing but disdain for this province?

  • Concerned
    November 26, 2012 - 11:22

    Now John Smith, put that in your pipe and smoke it. Its not over until the fat lady sings.

  • crista
    November 26, 2012 - 10:18

    do you know the the eventual out come????and if it was not worth the aggreavation,why was all this research and tax paying dollars spent for on muskrat falls and then look at the aggrevation on upper churchill falls ,how can you go by the rule of law ,while you got governments and bussiness using rule by law how can any one have any rights,you rights are to have a vote but you do not have a right for your vote to be inforced,they are playing dirty politics???? and they violate there committments and when that goes on how can any one have equal rights and when that goes on there is no trust and no faith and then every body is out for them selves now is that what taxpayers are paying taxes for to be lied and dictated to because that is what has gone on and going on and you can believe that,then it becomes a mock and then no body knows what is going on only the ones that know what they are doing so where are your natural rights. Going in some ones pockets and look at the waste that goes with that???? neglect and negligence that goes with that and the help of the media look at the confusion and what gets done????

  • Winston Adams
    November 26, 2012 - 10:09

    Little John, you say a few hundred million savings from a federal loan guarantee is not worth the aggravation. Let me repeat that A FEW HUNDRED MILLION SAVINGS -- IS NOT WORTH THE AGGRAVATION. This from a guy who claims he is personally concerned about his light bill going up a few hundred dollars a year.They say the guarantee is worth 600 million is savings. Now what can that buy? It buys 100 MW of wind power and 77 MW of island Hydro power. This together with efficient heating, which is self fiancing, makes MF entirely unnecessary. Then to, isn't 600 million about the cost of the new hospital for Corner Brook, which they can't find the money to start? Only a multi billionaire, or an idiot, sorry to say, might say 600 million is nothing, -- very little , Little John. And notice you jumped on the tidal instead of the wind issue. You noticed that MHI has trippled the value of the wind contribution that is feasible for Nfld? Like to ignore that, don't you, even though you highly praise MHI when convenient to you argument. Makes me wonder , some one paying you big, big dollars for your talking points?

    • John Smith
      November 26, 2012 - 10:44 one paying me for my points. The point I was trying to make is that when you look at the total cost of the project...say 8 billion...that's 8 thousand millions ...then 400 million in interest savings has little consequence, nice to have sure, but of little consequence.We will make 400 million a year in sales of power to the spot market. A further interesting note is that the loan guarantee, and the sale of power to Emera was never included in the reviews by any of the agencies involved....and the project came in 2 billion cheaper than the alternatives....nuff said...

    • Tim Jamison
      November 26, 2012 - 13:29

      Wow. Attack the person much, Winston? Don't they teach you professionalism at liberal shill school?

  • taxpayer
    November 26, 2012 - 08:51

    its time to allow the people to decide in a vote this mumble-jumble BS when it comes to muskrat falls. there are too many unanswered questions on the cost of this project. we need honest, and i repeat honest answers which is lacking from these overpayed politicians and their friends, but what else can you expect when you are dealing with CORRUPTION !

  • John Smith
    November 26, 2012 - 08:22

    So the Seirra club wants to force the people of NL to use Tidal energy instead of our hydro resources?Really? Quebec, BC, Manitoba, and Ont.all have hydro projects ongoing at this time, yet here the enviromentalists want the project stopped...why? Why can the rest of Canada proceed without being harrassed by these self serving entities, yet here we have to constantly appease these groups?As far as the loan guarantee goes I wish the Premier would tell Steve to shove it. The few hundred million in interest savings is simply not worth the aggrevation, and will not change the eventual outcome.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 26, 2012 - 08:17

    Perhaps this legal question is connected to the hang up with the loan guarantee.