Not convinced Muskrat Falls is a good deal

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According to all reports, Premier Kathy Dunderdale wowed the 600 or so attendees at the Municipalities NL convention in Gander on Oct. 6.

Indeed, one MHA, Paul Lane, dutifully heaped praises on her performance and opined that she, literally, had every mayor and council member in the palm of her hand — so much so that they gave the premier a standing ovation and extended applause.

In the same vein, Dunderdale ended her speech with a spirited challenge to all naysayers of the Muskrat Falls project to either “put up or shut up,” “fish or cut bait,” “put your money where your mouth is,” etc. A spirited address, for sure. And, as I understand it, the premier challenged anybody and everybody who had objections to the project to speak up.

All indications point to a rousing political speech and I don’t fault Dunderdale for that. After all, she is the premier. But I ask you, really, was it all just pure politics meant to rally the troops, the premier herself, and all voters? Did she honestly mean she would listen to people who had different views on Muskrat Falls than her own? Or was it just words to bolster her position as well as a government initiative? Was the challenge 100 per cent genuine?

Frankly, I’m skeptical, and here’s why.

The premier challenged anyone to provide reasons why Muskrat Falls might be a bad deal.

OK, here’s just one of many. A 12-page report on the project (according to The Telegram, Oct. 10) published by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies — an independent, non-profit group — recommended that the project be subject to a full review by an independent regulator, and said taxpayers need more information regarding actual costs and that they should be told if profits from off-system sales will be applied to reduce their electricity rates.

The premier’s response? “I don’t share that point of view” and “that group is right-wing — their message doesn’t resonate with me.”

It seems to me the premier’s reaction is indicative of her attitude towards any person or group who dares to criticize or question the wisdom of Muskrat Falls.

Remember the fate of the Public Utilities Board? Out the door with them — we don’t have time for the likes of you. Sometimes the premier makes me wonder if she, herself, has grave doubts about Muskrat and can’t stand irritating questions.

Furthermore, it appears that as far as this project is concerned, the premier has a severe case of tunnel vision which renders her incapable of seeing the wider implications this action might have for all of us.

One final thought. Premier Dunderdale recently recited a litany of groups and individuals who were pro-Muskrat Falls, and virtually all of them had an axe to grind — and that axe had a big dollar sign.

I represent thousands of taxpayers who have no axe to grind

but there are so many questions with no satisfactory answers that we have a real fear of being burdened with power bills that we can’t afford to pay. To date, neither the premier nor anyone else has seen fit to take the time to show us this is not so.

The premier said, “Muskrat Falls must work for ratepayers because they are directly affected.” (The Telegram, Oct. 5). In view of the minute amount of real information afforded the opposition parties, I would forecast the upcoming debate in the House of Assembly to be little more than a farce, and this will result in the project going ahead. In which case I hope and pray the premier is right and I am wrong.

George Martin writes from Clarenville.

Organizations: Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Gander, Clarenville

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Recent comments

  • Winston Adams
    October 27, 2012 - 12:47

    To INTERESTED - I wrote you a detailed reply but never got posted, a problem i think. The short answer is: A variable speed mini- split heatpump. The longer version had recommendations.

  • Gerald Saunders
    October 25, 2012 - 15:38

    Say NO to Muskrat project..Why ? Because the simple answer is: WE CAN'T AFFORD ! Do we want this albatross around our neck and that of or children for years to come ? The present government and Nalcor are asking us to trust them on this..but when we finally find how bad a deal this is ..THEY ALL COULD BE LONG-GONE>

  • Winston Adams
    October 24, 2012 - 09:04

    To Interested; You ask about studies about energy efficicncy and where to find them and how to save on your energy bill 1 big savings come from efficient heating as heating uses 69 percent of your electricity 2 where NOT to find info on this is on TAKE CHARGE or TURN BACK THE TIDE websites for residential savings- interesting as these are the power company's and government sites 3The McKinley study is a large USA study by a international consulting company.They looked at hundreds of products and devises . Their key finding: that by adding 8 percent to electriciity prices to pay for efficiency measures, the customer saves 24 percent on thier electricity bills. By adding just 4 percent and having the customer pay half and the government agency refund you half, you save 24 percent on your electricity bills 4 in nfld, efficient heating has long been used for large buildings and is now mandatory for large govn buildings. It saves 65 percent on heating 5 For residential they likewise save 65 percent. Hot water, tv's washers etc use 31 percent of your elecrticity, and your meter charge is about $16. 00 and there is Hst--- so 65 percent saving on heat gives about 30-35 percent saving on your overall bill. That is still more than the 24 percent expected in the USA. The USA uses more gas, we more electricity, and efficieny heating is subject to climate--- and our climate is ideal for these heating systems 6. The heating systems are certified for ratings, but must be properly size and installed . The government should have guidelines for this for homeowners interested , but does not. Efficiency is being avoided by Nalcor and the government 8 Efficiency Vermont , Efficiency Nova Scotia etc are helping residential customers in this direction. many other places are reducing demand on the grid by over 2 percent a year. This approach here clearly 1. eliminates the need for MF project 2. reduces not increase power bills. 3. incrementally reduces oil use at Holyrood and can make us 98 percent green energy 9 i am not aware of any local study here on these energy efficient heating systems, but it 's benefits are so well known that all our mechanical engineers here routinely use these for the past 20 years or more. As Danny williams would say --it's a no brainer, they are well proven. But little used so far for residential. If Danny used his brain to see this and the effect for power savings, he would have to come to a different conclusion. He should consider using this for his new large housing development- and set an example for energy efficiency, low power costs and climate change benefits. He might even make me a fan. The government should pay half his costs for this , like any residential use. and this would be the first large kick at knocking down the Nalcor residential driven forecast. Danny should show leadership here, and he has top engineers who can put him on this track. I have done analysis on my installlation, it reduces my heating by 70 percent, and no skimping on the heat.

    • Interested
      October 24, 2012 - 10:00

      What is it that you installed that reduced your heating cost?

  • Winston Adams
    October 23, 2012 - 13:42

    John, you say you're an average 'Joe' and that's allright because we are all average in many respects. But I thought you were brighter than you statements show, or you intentionally misrepresent, suggesting efficiency means having less heat. Its as simple as this John, efficient heaters need only 1/3 the electricity to give the same amount of heat. People with efficient heaters tend to have more heat not less, and at much less cost. Now these are long time established facts. I think you are pretending to be be dumb on this to promote the illusion we need a whole big new energy source. Don't act dumb John. Granted , this may be a little hard to beleive, but obviously you have not looked into this. And you can't explain why Nalcor and MHI ignored it.

  • Eli
    October 23, 2012 - 12:29

    Worth the price of admission to hear the Premier of B.C. on The National last nite. I feel it's a stance similar to what the Nova Scotia government is taking regarding the benefits versus their cost of Muskrat Falls power. Dunderdale, Kennedy, and Marshall could use some of the moxy displayed by the premiers of B.C. and N.S., but then again, the Newfoundlanders have themselves boxed into a hole and are not forced to accept anything for the glory of developing their pipedream. And that's what it is.

    • Eli
      October 23, 2012 - 14:52

      Typo. note should have read: "boxed into a hole and NOW forced to accept.... Sorry 'bout that.

  • John Smith
    October 23, 2012 - 11:56

    Well's quite simple really. If I shut off every light and appliance in my house, my bill would be reduced to zero. However, I like to use electricity, and I like to have as much of it as I want. If I want to turn on every light in my house, and every TV and turn every heater on full I want that long as I am willing to pay for it. What I want is for my electricity rates to stableize...which they will do after muskrat...if we stay on an isolated island system they will continue to go up along with the price of oil. Now Winston, if you want to turn off everything in your house, and live in the dark and in the cold, then that is your choice...and your choice will be reflected in your very low electricity bills. Freedom of choice Winston...I don't want to be forced by you, or anyone else to reduce by consumtion...I will burn as much power as I feel like, when I feel like it...and I will pay for it. You don't have you?

    • Too Funny
      October 23, 2012 - 12:17

      "...and I will pay for it. You don't have you?" Well, actually, he will, and so will the rest of us. We will be called upon to pay indirectly through our taxes to help pay for MF or through higher rates. Perhaps we should have progressive rates to charge more to heavy users. Let those who benefit, pay the cost.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 23, 2012 - 11:13

    Muskrat Falls' REFERENDUM Poll Results Todate (noon, 23 October 2012):----------Sanction 14.3%%,,,,,,,,,,, Defer decision pending full PUB review 14.3% ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Referendum 50%,,,,,,,, Referendum pending a full, comprehensive PUB review 21.4% ------------ HAVE YOUR SAY.......... is a RATEPAYER website established as a public service.

    • What Poll
      October 23, 2012 - 12:10

      Doesn't sound like a statistically reliable poll.

  • Winston adams
    October 23, 2012 - 10:53

    John and Herb- Serious efficiency programs in the the USA and Canada, which pays for half of the customers costs, reduces house electricity bills by 24 percent, and we could do better here using efficient heat that saves 65 percent on heating. Why go for 40 percent increase? Exlpain your reasoning John. You like higher bills?

    • Interested
      October 23, 2012 - 12:08

      In the past you referred to studies on efficiency. What is the name of that study or where can I find it. I'm interested in any way to reduce my electric bill.

  • Herb Morrison
    October 23, 2012 - 08:32

    Muskrat Falls will eventually become a reality because it is good for big business. I would reiterate one of the questions , which Mr. Phelan posed in his most recent column: "Will I as a home-owner see any significiant reduction in my electrical bill at the end of the month? This should be a priority for those promoting this project. As matters stand at the present time, big business will benefit most if the Muskrat Falls project comes to fruitition. As Anne Murray used to sing: "Hey, what about me?"

  • John Smith
    October 23, 2012 - 08:15

    Our electricity rates have gone up by 70% since 1998, they will go up a further 7% this coming March.Whether we build Muskrat, or stay on an isolated system burning oil, we will see our bills increase further. The difference is with Muskrat our bills will stableize.What the Premier was saying is lets see the proof. Let's hear from the naysayers experts. The PUB had 9 months, an extension, 2 million dollars, 15,000 pages of information, hundreds of exhibits.The AIMS report was actually very positive about the development. They said it would be good for the province.

    • Red
      October 23, 2012 - 11:21

      Wow John that's the same comment you left on the CBC site, I guess you are also GodGuardTheeNL. If you support this project so wholeheartedly then why don't you use your real name? What do you have to hide?

    • William Daniels
      October 23, 2012 - 15:48

      Red, Good eye.Pretty funny. What a tool. Probably a paid shill with 20 or so aliases.

    • Willie Dan
      October 24, 2012 - 07:52

      And you would know about multiple aliases.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 23, 2012 - 07:41

    In a December, 2009 letter on file with the PUB with respect to Nalcors Water Management Agreement (which is only between Nalcor and CF-LCo --- not Quebec) Hydro Quebec states clearly that it relies totally on its priority entitlements pursuant to its 1969 Upper Churchill and other related contracts...... Lawyer Bern Coffey says that practically speaking, what the contract means is that if Hydro Quebec requests anything above the 525 megawatts (which is contracted to the mining companies and for NL recall), then it can take it..... So, in effect, wouldn't we be building Muskrat Falls and spending billions to provide Hydro Quebec even more power than we do now, and in effect extending the 2041 Churchill River power to Quebec end date to 2067?

  • Not convinced either
    October 23, 2012 - 06:59

    Well said George Martin. Our government is supposed to represent the best interests of the entire population of the province, not just those that contributed to their campaign. This project looks like nothing but a huge transfer of wealth from the common Joe to the merchant class.

  • Cold Future
    October 23, 2012 - 06:49

    Muskrat will provide a pay back at $3 billion capital cost. At $9 billion it requires $6 billion of subsidy by NL people to sell power a discount rates on the mainland. NL rates will have to increase well beyond the usual escalation rates for electricity in Canada as a result.Putting in the money from oil revenues to protect the ratepayer is robbing one pocket to pay the other.It still remains a $6 billion tax on the people. Industrial customers will not be able to contribute to the subsidy because of existing contracts and competitiveness with mainland for goods and services produced.This ugly mess whether forced on the people by a majority government or not will for the next 50 years remain an ugly mess.There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 23, 2012 - 06:41

    Muskrat Falls' REFERENDUM Poll Results Todate:----------Sanction 09%,,,,,,,,,,, Defer decision pending full PUB review 18% ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Referendum 64%,,,,,,,, Referendum pending a full, comprehensive PUB review 9% ------------ HAVE YOUR SAY.......... is a RATEPAYER website established as a public service.

    • What Poll
      October 23, 2012 - 08:02

      There's a lot of questions going around about MF and a lot of misinformation. How accurate are these poll results? Three of the four options are against a gov't decision to proceed with the project. I suspect that this poll will not be very accurate and will just add to the amount of misinformation. That's what happens when you don't have the proper training.