Nalcor Energy spent $23 million to build a road to Muskrat Falls, and another $83 million to complete excavation work at the site of the massive hydroelectric project, according to information obtained by The Telegram.
© TC Media photo
The Muskrat Falls site
Those numbers — obtained through access to information — are the only actual dollar figures for Muskrat Falls expenses, and initially, even those two dollar figures were refused by the Crown energy corporation until The Telegram appealed to the province’s access to information watchdog.
Nalcor CEO Ed Martin has steadfastly refused to provide updates on any project costs since the fall of 2012, when the company released it’s “decision gate three” numbers which justified sanctioning the Muskrat Falls project.
The Telegram has been unable to find any previously-released cost estimates for either the road or for bulk excavation at the site, so it’s not possible to determine if those portions of the project were on-budget or not.
Last month, speaking to the media, Martin would not give any details about the project costs, except to say that they now believe there will likely be overruns.
“We really need to present the full picture to give you a full update — and we will do that — but as I mentioned on the $6.2 (billion) we are seeing some pressure and you’re going to see some increases,” he told reporters, referring to the $6.2-billion cost to build the dam and associated transmission lines.
At that April 15 news conference, Martin was releasing an independent report into the project; parts of that report were blacked out because they contained information that the company felt was commercially sensitive.
At the time, Martin said he believes the public’s right to know about the project is of the highest importance, but only if it won’t interfere with negotiations for large contracts.
“We don’t want to give any inclination out as we complete all the arrangements with the contractors in terms of how we see these types of costs unfolding,” Martin said. “We’re not going to do that. You know, it’s not prudent to do that. It’s not prudent to show any type of information when you’re in deep negotiations, and that’s just protecting the people of the province.”
Martin refused to give any specific information about costs, and also refused to give any hint on when he would be able to give information about costs.
“I’m not going to give a date,” Martin said. “We will not be held to dates on this project with respect to these types of negotiations because it’s just going to rob value to the people of the province.”
The Telegram submitted two access to information requests for the total costs associated with bulk excavation and the road construction.
First, Nalcor said the request was too broad, and then when it was narrowed, Nalcor refused to release any information at all.
When the response came back, in line with what Martin has said, Nalcor said that the information was commercially sensitive, and could potentially harm the financial position of the corporation.
The Telegram requested that the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner review the decision to withhold all information.
Shortly after The Telegram requested an independent review, Nalcor’s access to information co-ordinator got in touch to say that the company would provide some information after all.
“Nalcor Energy originally denied access to your request as the cost numbers you requested have not yet been finalized,” Nalcor access to information co-ordinator Tracey Pennell wrote in a letter sent to The Telegram and to the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office. “While the work for the construction of the road to the Muskrat Falls site and the bulk excavation at the Muskrat Falls site is complete, the contracts are not through the final closing process.”