Five lawyers walked into the Super 8 Hotel in St. John’s Thursday to announce they’ve formed a new company. Their business plan is simple: to not build a hydro plant at Muskrat Falls.
It could be the start of a joke. But it’s not.
It’s the start of what will be a full-court press against the provincial government’s Muskrat Falls project.
Nalcor, the Crown’s energy company, is about to release its Decision Gate 3 numbers, the final set of estimates before full sanction. Premier Kathy Dunderdale says that sanction won’t come until a full debate is held in the House of Assembly this fall.
But conventional wisdom suggests this is already a done deal. At the end of July, Nalcor and Nova Scotia’s energy company, Emera, formalized terms they signed two years ago. Emera gets a stake in the project and cheap power in exchange for funding a transmission link from Newfoundland to Cape Breton.
The pros and cons of Muskrat Falls have been long debated in public forums. The opposition parties have raised it in the House, though neither the questions nor answers have been particularly illuminating.
But the primary concern boils down to one question: has Nalcor sufficiently demonstrated that Muskrat Falls is the lowest-cost option to supply the island’s future electricity needs?
According to the lawyers’ group, the answer is no. And they’re not alone in that opinion.
Last weekend’s Telegram contained a forum piece by MUN economist Jim Feehan. Feehan listed several alternatives to Muskrat Falls that he feels have not been adequately explored.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s news conference was an odd creature in many ways.
The lawyers — Richard Cashin, Cabot Martin, Ed Hearn, Dennis Browne and Bern Coffey — are well-known for a diversity of other reasons, some even pertinent to the issue at hand. Why emphasize the legal connection? That’s only a begging for lawyer jokes.
And why form a company? They can make their collective point just as easily without incorporating. As lawyers, perhaps they just couldn’t help themselves.
No new revelations were raised Thursday. One member, Coffey, has an opinion piece in today’s Telegram spelling out concerns about the credibility of Manitoba Hydro International, the firm tasked to make a final evaluation of the project.
But 2041 Energy clearly hopes to crystallize the debate in the weeks and months to come.
Sadly, none of the five took the opportunity to try out Super 8’s famous water slide. It could have been the perfect visual metaphor:
“This project will send our economy down the tubes. Geronimooooooo!”