Opposition politicians are a little bit uneasy about revelations that Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley said he didn’t need to see a copy of a key report by the only body currently doing independent oversight of the Muskrat Falls project.
Dalley told The Telegram this week that the provincial government never asked to see a copy of the November independent engineer’s report which authorized the federal government $5-billion federal loan guarantee.
That didn’t sit well with Liberal Leader Dwight Ball.
“We’ve got the largest expenditure in our history. We’ve made a commitment to really monopolize the supply of energy in our province, you know, through legislation,” Ball said. “To think that you do not have to provide oversight on something as significant as that, I just believe in my opinion, that is completely irresponsible.”
Dalley told The Telegram that there is nobody in the provincial Department of Natural Resources doing detailed oversight of the Muskrat Falls project.
He said the primary point of contact for information between Nalcor and the provincial government is CEO Ed Martin speaking directly to the deputy minister of Natural Resources, who, in turn, reports to Dalley.
“They passed on all responsibility for this project to Nalcor,” Ball said. “Right now Nalcor is not getting challenged on any decisions that it’s making, you know, from anyone.”
As part of the agreement for the federal loan guarantee, an independent engineering firm was assigned to study the project and provide a report to the federal government as part of due diligence.
A draft version of that report was completed and provided to the federal government in November, which was good enough to allow the feds to approve the loan guarantee.
A subsequent draft of the report was provided to Nalcor last week.
When the Telegram requested a copy of that report, a Nalcor spokeswoman said, “Due to the commercially sensitive information contained in reports of this nature it is not normal practice for such reports to be released publically.”
On Tuesday, Nalcor said it’s hoping to release the report publicly.
“Having just received the independent report from the Government of Canada on Friday, February 21, 2014, Nalcor is taking the time to thoroughly review the document,” Nalcor spokeswoman Karen O’Neill wrote. “While it is likely that significant portions of this report will be released, we still need time to review the entire report and make a determination as to what information is deemed commercially sensitive in nature.
“In making that determination, Nalcor considers established legislation to guide that decision on the release of information. Additionally, since the report was completed on behalf of the Government of Canada, we need to consult with them on the release of its report in whole or in part.”
Speaking to Dalley, he said he felt that he didn’t need to see the report because Nalcor has the experts necessary to do all the Muskrat Falls work.
“I think what we need to recognize — and I would appreciate it if you would — is that Nalcor has assembled a team of experts. The experts are in the engineering oversight, and the work that’s being done for the project (is) among the best of people that we could find,” he said.
Ball said it’s not Nalcor’s competence that’s in question.
“This is not about duplication of work,” he said. “Any organization that you have — even with the best of people, no matter how good they are — they should never shy away from wanting someone else to actually take a look at their work.”
New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said that she believes the government is firmly pushing for the absolute minimum amount of oversight when it comes to Nalcor.
“This government, first under Danny Williams and then under Kathy Dunderdale, was absolutely determined to make Muskrat Falls happen, come hell or high water,” she said. “And they didn’t want good oversight, and they still don’t want good oversight.”
Ball also pointed out that the Nova Scotia energy regulator has specifically required that all reports of the independent engineer must be filed with them.