Grand Riverkeeper wants in on PUB power review

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Asks regulator for intervener status in proceedings

The not for profit group Grand Riverkeeper Labrador is looking for late entry as an intervener into the ongoing review of the province’s main power system by the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River in Labrador in February 2011.

Grand Riverkeeper has participated in reviews to date relating to the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, stating concerns and objections to the development.

As an intervener in the PUB’s power review, the organization would be granted powers above and beyond the ability to make a presentation of their concerns. The group would be able to: participate in technical conferences, file written requests for information, present expert evidence to the Board, cross-examination other presenters and seek recovery of their costs.

The regulator’s review is looking at reliability in the main power system up to the point power from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric plant, on the lower Churchill River, is brought online. The review will also extend beyond that point, to reliability for the island after it begins using power from Labrador.

According to Grand Riverkeeper’s request for status, the group’s focus remains on the Muskrat Falls project.

“We are concerned about many aspects of the construction of the project, as well as the impacts after construction is complete, impacts that would include but are not limited to, risks, which we believe Nalcor has not thus far acknowledged, that include legal and contractual risks, and risks to the physical integrity of the dams and the North Spur natural dam,” the request states.

In terms of “contractual risks,” the group points to the water management agreement, stating it seeks to offer evidence of uncertainties around the availability of power as a result of the agreement.

“These risks could entail the unavailability for the Island of some or all of the planned energy and capacity from Muskrat Falls, over the short, medium or long term. Grand Riverkeeper believes that these risks are material in evaluating the adequacy and reliability of the island interconnected system after the interconnection with the Muskrat Falls generating facility and it intends, through its participation in this hearing, to present evidence with respect to these risks.”

Presented with the request, Newfoundland Power has stated its objection to bringing on Grand Riverkeeper as an intervener, saying the issues raised will complicate the discussion of reliability of the power system post-Muskrat Falls in-service.

“Newfoundland Power does not believe that this issue can, or should, be extended to the construction, legal, contractual and physical risks associated with Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls development ... For example, evidence concerning contractual uncertainties related to water management at Muskrat Falls will not meaningfully inform the consideration of island interconnected system reliability following the interconnection.”

Other recognized interveners for the power review — Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, the Consumer Advocate, Danny Dumaresque and the island industrial customers — have until Tuesday to submit comments on Grand Riverkeeper’s status.

If status is granted, Grand Riverkeeper, led by vice-president Roberta Frampton Benefiel, will be expected to join in on proceedings where they stand.

If status is denied to the organization, the group will still be able to make submissions to the PUB as part of the proceedings, including at public hearings, expected this fall.

In terms of the review schedule, a report speaking to the current system and reliability is expected to be submitted to the PUB Thursday from Liberty Consulting and will be made available online.

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Liberty Consulting

Geographic location: Churchill River, North Spur, Iceland

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