Dunderdale preparing independent review of power system
As the dust began to settle on a week of intermittent power outages and uncertainty about whether the lights would stay on, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she wants an independent review to look at the province’s electrical system.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale, accompanied by Minister of Natural Resources Derrick Dalley, announces an independent review of the electricity system for the province at Confederation Building Thursday. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
“People are wondering what the heck is going on,” she told reporters Thursday afternoon.
“I want answers.”
The Public Utilities Board (PUB) has already announced that it is doing its own investigation into what went on to cause the blackouts, and Nalcor head Ed Martin said the utility is doing an internal review as well, but Dunderdale’s review is far broader.
She said she wants somebody to look at the whole scope of the electrical system and the regulatory structures behind it to make sure everything is working as it should.
That puts the PUB squarely in the crosshairs since, as the energy regulator, its job is to examine all proposed spending by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro before it does any repairs, maintenance or upgrades on the system.
The accusation out in the public, Dunderdale said, is that spending on infrastructure maintenance was deferred in favour of Muskrat Falls. She said that hasn’t happened, and it would be the PUB’s job to make sure that sort of thing doesn’t happen.
Dunderdale said she has complete confidence in the PUB, but during the same news conference, she also said it couldn’t do this sort of examination, because the regulator will be the one under the microscope.
“You can’t ask somebody to investigate themselves,” she said.
Dunderdale couldn’t say the exact terms of reference, who will conduct it, how much it will cost or any other detail of the review.
Those parts are still being worked out by provincial government bureaucrats, but Dunderdale said they’d firm it all up within six weeks.
Neither of the opposition parties were particularly impressed.
Liberal MHA Tom Osborne said by drafting the terms of reference and picking the person who does the review, the government will be able to control the process.
“Government is going to draft the terms of reference,” he said. “It’s almost the same as the fox watching the henhouse.”
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael has been calling for a full inquiry by the PUB, and she said by taking it out of its hands, the government is trying to marginalize the regulator.
“I think this government is once again belittling and diminishing the role of the PUB,” she said.
Martin, for his part, said he welcomes the review, even though Nalcor subsidiary Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will also be under the microscope.
“It’s been a significant event. Any information that we can get, any type of review that we can get, we always take what we can get,” Martin said. “We never shy away from reviews — independent, external or internal.”