The morning after Premier Kathy Dunderdale formally sanctioned the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project, government officials are now getting down to the details.
In a series of technical briefings to reporters and politicians, the government laid out the details of legal agreements and the fine print of the deal to develop Muskrat Falls. While cabinet has given the project a green light, and Crown corporation Nalcor is going full bore with the project, the fight has shifted to the House of Assembly, where politicians are bracing for a filibuster of Muskrat Falls-enabling legislation.
Officials painted the legal agreement between Nalcor and Nova Scotia utility Emera as an ironclad, legal agreement that envisions all possibilities to make sure that the plan to develop Muskrat Falls and the associated maritime link transmission cable will go ahead.
When it comes to the legislation, the government is bringing in two key bills, one which deals with cutting the Public Utilities Board (PUB) out of the electricity rate-setting process for all of the project costs associated with Muskrat Falls. Essentially, the PUB is forced to build all of the costs for Muskrat Falls into the final rate price charged to consumers.
The second piece of legislation deals with creating the necessary legislative framework for the easement required for the transmission line from Labrador, across Newfoundland to Soldier's Pond just outside of St. John's.
At its core, Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy said, all of this is about “certainty” for the project when the government goes to borrow money on the open market. Nalcor wants to start going to the financial markets in January, so these pieces of legislation need to be passed as soon as possible.
But opposition parties are already saying they'll filibuster the legislation, which raises the possibility of MHAs sitting in the House on Christmas Eve or even later.