So, let’s review. On Monday, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board handed down its decision on the Maritime Link, a key component of the Muskrat Falls project.
It said, in short, that the project does provide a marginally better option for Nova Scotia ratepayers, but that Nova Scotia Power Maritime Link Inc. (NSPML) must first firm up an arrangement to buy more power other than the block it’s getting for free.
Specifically, NSPML must “obtain from Nalcor the right to access Nalcor Market-priced Energy … when needed to economically serve NSPI and its ratepayers; or provide some other arrangement to ensure access to Market-priced Energy.” (NSPI is the province’s power distribution company.)
In response to the ruling. Nalcor boss Ed Martin placed a lot of emphasis on the word “or” in that clause.
This is worrisome, particularly since Nalcor and NSPML’s parent company Emera made it clear in the past that buying extra power from Nalcor is an option.
Martin suggested he’s unwilling to put any more promises on the table. And that’s a bad thing, because it may jeopardize Emera’s ability to fulfil the utility board’s conditions.
Martin must clarify his position.
Likewise, Premier Kathy Dunderdale took an alarmingly nonchalant tone Tuesday in addressing news that Hydro-Quebec has filed court documents requesting clarity on its water rights at Churchill Falls.
The company argues that if any “flexible operation” of the Churchill Falls plant can be construed as generating extra power, Hydro-Quebec has first rights to that power.
Although the court challenge doesn’t specifically say so, it has direct implications for Muskrat Falls.
The latter relies completely on co-ordinating water usage with Churchill Falls. The rights to that water lie with Hydro-Quebec.
See the problem?
Nalcor brass have repeatedly said such a challenge would be spurious, because the Quebec utility would receive every bit of power it’s contractually due.
And it’s easy to see Hydro-Quebec’s challenge as little more than an under-handed attempt to scuttle or at least impede the project.
It’s exhibited similar cunning in the past. It is a business, in a competitive market.
That hardly matters. The water management issue has been floating around since at least 2009.
Nalcor and the province should have had all their ducks in a row by now.
In fact, one might ask why they didn’t seek legal clarity before the courts themselves.
Railing against the big, bad regime across the border does nothing to reassure people that all is in good hands on this end.
“Don’t worry,” the government says, “we’ve got everything under control.”
Really? Prove it.