Nalcor is taking the prudent approach

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By Gilbert Bennett

I’m writing in response to Michael Johansen’s column, “The very stones beneath their feet” (Sept. 15).

Since our work on the Lower Churchill project began, Nalcor Energy has carried out extensive consultation with local residents and businesses, aboriginal groups, as well as municipal, provincial and federal governments. Despite Mr. Johansen’s insinuation that Nalcor has moved forward without any regard for others’ opinions or concerns, the truth is that our consultation work in preparation for this project has involved hundreds of interviews, meetings and information sessions with individuals and groups around the province.

Nalcor’s ongoing site development and preparation work currently being carried out near Muskrat Falls is a proven approach to effective management of large-scale projects.

Although Mr. Johansen suggests Nalcor jumped the gun, moving forward with this work today is a prudent decision.  It is common in large projects to do up front, preparatory work. None of this work could have proceeded without release from the environmental assessment for the hydroelectric generating facility.

Nalcor is committed to managing environmental effects on the surrounding area.

This includes protecting and preserving the historic and cultural resources in the project area, and ensuring that site work is carried out in a way that is respectful of the region’s heritage. So what Mr. Johansen may call “a few pesky bits of rock,” at Nalcor we refer to as important archeological resources. Their presence in the project area was neither a surprise nor an inconvenience.  

Nalcor conducted extensive baseline studies on both the north and south sides of Muskrat Falls. This work included a review of topographical maps, aerial surveys, rating of archeological potential within the project footprint, physical sampling and test pitting, and identification of sites requiring excavation prior to project-related activities.

Careful work

Nalcor is following a diligent process to ensure that historic resources within the footprint of the project are protected, preserved and/or completely recorded in advance of site work. We have been and will continue to work closely with the Provincial Archeology Office (PAO) on all phases of this important work.

Physical sampling and test pitting have been conducted in the areas of planned work for 2012 and 2013, including the areas on the north side of Muskrat Falls.  

Based on this sampling and sampling completed as part of the environmental assessment process, several known historic sites have been identified. Our proposed mitigation for these sites was submitted to the PAO for approval and distributed to aboriginal groups for consultation.

Provincially certified archeologists and a team of field staff contracted

by Nalcor have been carrying out approved and necessary recovery work. Upon project sanction, the historic resources recovery work will be expanded in advance of further site work, as appropriate.

Nalcor has also put in place a number of measures to ensure the protection and preservation of historic resources near Muskrat Falls. In areas where historic resources have been identified, all recovery work will be completed before equipment can operate in the area. In accordance with the Historic Resources Act of Newfoundland and Labrador, only when all required excavation is completed and appropriate mitigation measures have been put in place will equipment or machinery be cleared to operate in the identified areas.

In addition, a 50-metre buffer zone has been established around known historic sites, and Nalcor has developed a historic resources contingency plan, which ensures that anyone working on the project site is trained in procedures for basic historic resource identification and protection should they encounter a potential artifact while working. Innu Nation monitors witnessed these mitigation measures when they visited the site in early September.

The development of Muskrat Falls will help our province meet its domestic power needs well into the future. It will eliminate our reliance on costly and unpredictable oil for electricity generation, help stabilize electricity rates for consumers for decades, and create substantial economic benefits and thousands of jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during construction.

Our work to date has included significant consultation with individuals and groups throughout the province.

We will continue to consult with all stakeholders as we move forward, providing accurate information upon which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can form their opinions about the project.

Gilbert Bennett is vice-president for the Lower Churchill project with Nalcor Energy.

Organizations: Provincial Archeology Office

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Winston Adams
    October 01, 2012 - 13:24

    John, your sign off LMAO, (laughing my anus off)- I confess, I'm stun on those phrases of yours, had to look it up. Now you joke that I know more about electicity generation and distribution than Gilbert Bennett will ever know. And you joke that I am a guru, a sheer genius.Now John, I have only 5 years experience in the generation and distribution field, and a mere 3 decades in the heating field.Now I expect Gilbert is a smart cookie, and will post answers to my questions and concerns. I did not want to take advantage of Gilberts youth and inexperience, but you make an issue of it. It is obvious that any thing of a technical nature you do not understand, and don't wish to .Efficient heating you keep calling "better baseboard heater". Again, John, they are not baseboard heaters. You should try getting a job with the Turn the Tide group or Take Charge. You do your best to misinform the public. You're likely a liability to the MFproject.

  • John Smith
    October 01, 2012 - 08:22

    Don't waste your breath or your time Mr. Bennett. Don't you know that the guys who post here know far more about electrical generation and distribution than you will ever know. They are the experts, they know all about what our future needs will be, and how we should address them.We have gurus like Maurice and Winston...sure they have it all figured out, sheer genius I say. Yes, lets install better baseboard heaters, and refurbish the 40 year old plant in Holyrood...brilliant! Now why didn't Nalcor think of that? LMAO.

  • William Daniels
    September 30, 2012 - 16:07

    Michael Johansen nailed it.

  • All the facts, including the impact expected on Senior Citizens,need to be put on the table regarding Muskrat Falls.
    September 30, 2012 - 09:15

    Eric, please be assured that most of the Senior Citizens of this province who exist on fixed incomes, who are going to be adversely impacted economically and in other ways by the development of the Muskrat Falls Project, don't even know that this "electronic medium' information provided by The Telegram even exists, so therefore they are apprised on very little of what is about to come down the Muskrat Falls pipeline. I would hazard a guess that they might even think this is the best thing that ever happened in their province. Even if they were engrossed in the hardcover of the Telegram every day , that medium does not contain the info that you and I are reacting to here on this electronic site and from my knowledge most seniors have very little contact with the computer.

  • Eric
    September 29, 2012 - 14:32

    Thank you Mr Bennett for this information. I see the same people commenting on everything about Muskrat Falls, most have their minds made up before all the details are out. I am waiting for the final cost to be revealed...if its too high then lets not do it. Look at it that if its not a go there will be a great trail to the falls, and if its a go the project has a head start. All i see now are these naysayers throwing around numbers...lets all wait and make a rational decision.

    • david
      September 30, 2012 - 14:26

      The cost is only a half-issue ---- the BENEFIT derived for such cost is the rest of the eqaution. If enough benefit would be gained, then any cost can be quite feasible and justifable. The primary problem with Muskrat Falls is not the enormous and ill-defined 'cost' (though that is quite discomforting in and of itself).....it is the amount of economic payoff that can be RELIABLY forecasted for that cost. If anyone could bother to pin down some reliable, rational, defensible figures on that, it would really help. So far, just dreams and rainbows......personally, this speaks volumes.

  • David
    September 29, 2012 - 14:31

    A prudent battle plan doesn't make any difference if the battle chosen is unwinnable. This is the economic version of Beaumont Hamel, with Nalcor as the British commanders.

  • Winston Adams
    September 29, 2012 - 13:55

    Gilbert, let me take this opportunity to accept you invitation to consult with the public so as to clarify the following, with respect to reliability issues with MF. Having worked as an engineer with Nfld Hydro, I know Nfld has one of the highest incidents and readings of GICs in North Amarica and the world. GICs being geomagnetic induced currents, triggered by sun spot actavity. This is what triggered the Northeast power outage in 1989. And hydro Quebec afterwards spent 1 billion dollars to improve their reliability from these events. The transmission line from MF has some major features which contributes to GICs, such as it's long length, the east west configuration, termination in a coastal region etc. What provisions have been made and allowed for in respect of reliability against GICs, and are these similar to Hydro Quebec standards? And I understand Nalcor will have penalities assessed against them by Emera, due to loss of power. If so, has this been assessed in terms of possible GIC outages? And again in terms of reliability. I understand the risk of outages on the northern peninsula land line has been assessed to be similar to that of our existing 230kv lines on the island where there is a long history of experience, and which is relatively good. However, the northern peninsula experience is not with 230 kv , but 69kv. And this line was very troublesome for outages, due to the line being exposed to high winds with salt content. My recollection is that your submissions deleted salt as a contaminant for this new line. If so, is not the reliability being overestimated,as salt is a issue there . The damage to trees and the power outages here a few weeks ago highlights the trouble wind and salt spray can do. Given the rush with the PUB hearings, I had concerns with these questions but got no answer. Least I missed some something in your data, or my concern is not reasonable, I ask you clarify this for me, with thanks in advance.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    September 29, 2012 - 12:35

    "DO WE NEED THE POWER" ---- A RESOUNDING --- "NO"........ Nalcor confirmed in its 2011 submission to the PUB that there is no forecast increase in industrial demand after year 2015.... Accordingly, government and Nalcor both say that Muskrat Falls is viable based solely on its "50-year" 0.8% compound annual increase in demand --- and they now argue that demand is driven by increased electricity use by island "RESIDENTS"...... increased residential use that is due to the increased number of new, larger homes, electric heat and home appliance use. ....... See www.vision2041.com for --- EVIDENCE THAT SUCH INCREASE IN RESIDENTIAL USE IS SHORT-LIVED...... See how, after 2018, "residential electricity use" has nowhere to go but DOWN (right after Muskrat Falls comes on stream)........ LESS demand (less than forecast) means that consumer rates MUST GO HIGHER (MUCH HIGHER) than Nalcor forecasts if its multi-billion dollar debt servicing costs are to be paid for....... LESS DEMAND also thereby means that Muskrat Falls is "NOT VIABLE", period. ........ Maurice Adams, www.vision2041.com

  • Winston Adams
    September 29, 2012 - 10:04

    Gilbert, you say MF will stabilize electricity costs for consumers for decades.You may recall you and I discussed this at your Open House a few months ago. I pointed out that before the electricity costs gets stabilized at about 2 percent a year, it first gets bumped up 40 percent. I pointed out that when MF comes on stream that our electricity costs which is now 50 percent more than Quebec, Manitoba, and B.C., will then jump to double the costs in those provinces. Your reply was "What has that got to do with anything" Well it has a lot to do with comparative cost of living and business competitiveness, as power cost is very basis to this. With gate 3 numbers expected to show higher costs for this project, we may likely see our costs much more than I have stated here. So your word 'Stabilize" needs to be taken in that context. Our discussion at that time was mostly about my proposition that 'customer' energy efficincy was a better alternative than MF. There has been several Telegram items on your efforts of applying efficiency to the turbine design, and for replacement transformers for the existing Churchill falls, whereby a gain of 1 or 2 percent is important. Yet efficiency gains by the customers of 50 percent or more is bing ignored. This is very cost effective and reliable at less than 1/3 the cost of MF, and applicable to both hot water and space heating. And residential space heating is the main driver of increased demand. I estimate that 600 Mw of our present winter demand is wasted from this inefficiency, and that about 400 MW reduction is achieveable. Nalcor's position is that the consumer is not interested in this, and that there is too much uncertainity. I have attempted to get a responce from your Ed Martin's blog site, with 2 question 2 months ago. My first question: Why not go after the big energy savers with a large potential for adaption (and as other jurisdictions are doing more than 10 fold more on efficiency reductions than our power companies here.) It took more than a month to get this question posted, but Nalcor gave no answer. The second question was as follows: My submission to the PUB stated that we could get about 423 MW potential reduction from the application of efficient heating for all our houses, and about 600MW when considering hot water and small business. If your assessment is different can you advise the potential you estimate? After more than 2 months , this question is not even posted yet.You say you will continue to consult with all stakeholders to provide accurate information to allow us to form our opinions. Please do so. For now, I think MF is a great project, but the time is premature by 2 decades and the cost too high. I beleive Efficiency applied to the customers should be the main priority on a isolated option over the next two decades. Your reply to my proposition as to the MW lost to inefficiency and cost effectiveness of this as a solution would be helpful to my own analysis. Is it that Nalcor has been instructed by government that this approach is off the table for seriious consideration? And no reasonable responses are to be expected?

  • Cyril Rogers
    September 29, 2012 - 09:13

    Mr. Bennett, you and NALCOR may consider it prudent to move ahead with this project and spend hundreds of millions BEFORE the project is sanctioned but, let me ask you this: WHOSE MONEY ARE YOU SPENDING? I believe your argument, in this instance, is spurious and disingenuous to say the least. After all, this is not some wealthy private corporation that can spend its money as it sees fit. Even then, a private corporation is somewhat accountable to its shareholders. I don't need to remind you that people of this province are the shareholders in NALCOR and many of us have grave concerns about the viability of this project. NALCOR is being directed from Confederation Hill by 35 people(not including the Speaker of the HOA) who presume to know it all, who are spending the people's money on a project that is questionable at best, and, that has NOT been sanctioned. NALCOR and the PC government are acting with impunity, as though it has already been sanctioned, but who will answer if the project goes off the rails? Why the haste? Whatever you may be doing that is considered acceptable practice in dealing with historical sites, you are putting the cart before the horse, as the saying goes. Please spare us your gratuitous justifications!

    • Kev
      September 30, 2012 - 23:28

      Is Nalcor being directed by 35 people on Confederation Hill? Or are 35 people on Confederation Hill being directed by Nalcor?

  • As far as most of us ordinary CITIZENS are concerned NALCOR has jumped the gun. Ask Us?
    September 29, 2012 - 08:48

    As far as most of us ordinary citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador are concerned, who have commented on this site over the past number of months, Nalcor "has" jumped the gun. What we are witnessing is NALCOR is ignoring the signs that are imminent that there are No Customers in the wings, who are willing to pay anywhere close to what it costs to produce the energy and that will leave the ratepayers and taxpayers of the province, a big percentage of whom are elderly and pensioned off on pensions that are NOT indexed to inflation holding the burden to pay off many Billions of dollars of debt that will be created for just 800 mega watts of hydro energy.

    • Winston Adams
      September 29, 2012 - 11:06

      Average power output is about 575 Mw , and after deducting for transmission losses, that 's more like 500 Mw of useful power, not 800.