So much for Nalcor being green

Michael Johansen
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Apparently the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project is already producing so much crap that a single day without flushing can cause an environmental disaster and threaten public health.

Not much more than a day after the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) set up picket lines beneath two brand new “PRIVATE PROPERTY” signs at the gate to the unsanctioned construction work at Muskrat Falls, the province’s power-bloated energy corporation (you can hardly tell it’s a public organization) ran to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland to have the protesters sent as far away as possible — at least far enough they won’t be able to stop any more sewage trucks from entering Nalcor’s private realm.

In Nalcor’s Labrador the rule of law has been suspended where it is inconvenient and dissent is forbidden. Sure, the law’s a good thing when it keeps pickets away from your gate, but Nalcor blithely ignores it when it comes to property titles; no matter that the territory around Muskrat Falls is the traditional shared land of two aboriginal peoples, the company just supercedes the democratic process and declares it to be Nalcor’s private property. Don’t all the “KEEP OUT” signs, the big orange gate and the little white guardhouse make it official?

Well, the NCC, leader Todd Russell and all the other “persons unknown” cited in the Nalcor injunction don’t think so. They think Muskrat Falls is as much theirs as anybody’s and they don’t like any government or big corporation coming in to take it away and destroy it.

“If the project proceeds we will end up with a huge dam in a sacred area and a massive transmission line on our lands with no direct benefits,” is what the NCC says on a picket line flyer.

The 20-or-so persons unknown were peaceful, but determined. They were friendly with everyone who wanted to leave the busy construction site, but they weren’t letting anyone back in — except for one man who brought coffee for the guards, but he left right away.

The protesters seemed most proud of blocking a truck carrying bridge materials (which was possibly Nalcor’s belated attempt to avoid causing more damage to a formerly pristine salmon stream that heavy machinery has been churning up for weeks), but what gave Nalcor an excuse to get rid of them was the daily excrement pumper.

Woe to ye who seek to defy Nalcor’s Dunderdale-given right to do whatever it likes in Labrador! The speed at which Nalcor got the anti-protest injunction suggests the company’s lawyers were waiting in the Supreme Court foyer the morning the protest started with only a few blanks to fill into their documents. The sewage truck allowed them to express fear for public health and presto! — instant injunction.

But health and environment, neither is the main issue for Nalcor. The issue is that Nalcor can’t bear to pause even a day in its headlong rush to build more dams on Labrador’s Grand River — work the company began last spring without sanction from the duly elected House of Assembly, which is obviously necessary given the initial $8- to $10-billion debt the project will saddle taxpayers and electricity consumers.

Nalcor can only act so presumptively towards the provincial parliament and so cavalierly towards a Labrador aboriginal group because Premier Kathy Dunderdale lets it. She leads by example, by avoiding the House as much as possible and by dismissing NunatuKavut and others who disagree with her as unworthy of consideration.

A delegate to the recent Progressive Conservative convention described his support for dams at Muskrat Falls as a “no-brainer.” Maybe that’s the problem. The proponents are too little guided by rational thought and too heavily influenced by emotions — not love of nature, which they ridicule, but love of money (greed, that is) and a disturbing thirst for revenge against Quebec.

At the convention, Dunderdale claimed she’d never been shown one piece of evidence or expert’s analysis that argues against the megaproject. Maybe she’d be able to hear them and get her brain involved in the discussion if she takes her fingers out of her ears and stops shouting “la la la la la la la la” every time someone raises a doubt about the dams.


The “MUN researcher” mentioned in my Sept. 15 column, “The very stones beneath their feet,” is not Memorial University archeologist Scott Neilsen, as some may have surmised, nor is he directly affiliated with MUN. The author regrets any inconvenience caused to Mr. Neilsen.


Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: NCC, Supreme Court

Geographic location: Labrador, Muskrat Falls, Grand River Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Aaron O'Brien
    October 22, 2012 - 15:15

    Excellent piece! Bravo! The injustice is appalling.

  • Winston Adams
    October 21, 2012 - 08:07

    As for being green, Muskrat Falls is one way to rise our island hydro up another 12 percent on top of existing 85 percent . That will put about as green as Manitoba, Que, and BC. The problem is the cost. Our power is now about 50 percent more than those other provinces. With MF it will double their's. That's a high price to gain 12 points. Energy Efficicncy can do the same thing as it reduces demand. My calaculations show that efficient heating( which uses 1/3 the power) for all residential units reduces demand by 2 times the generation output of Holyrood oil fired plant of all of 2011. This achieves the same green result. The cost is about 1/4 that of MF. The reduced demand reduces our power bills by 30 percent per year. Other jurisdictions such as Vermont is doing this. We need a proper plan that reduces demand about 2.5 percent per year. Not hard to do.

  • Maggy Carter
    October 20, 2012 - 21:37

    Excellent column Michael.

  • Norman Andrews
    October 20, 2012 - 11:26

    A perfect article on the Muskrat Falls Fiaco for any CARING people out there, except Big Business who cares about their buttom line. Kudos to the Telegram who are proving they are an unbiased Newspaper. You are doing the public of Newfoundland and Labrador a better service then the the governments we elected to serve us. Thank you all!