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Public Utilities Board has lots of questions for Nalcor

List of 74 questions from PUB seeks what Crown corporation plans to do about Muskrat Falls

As the Muskrat Falls Inquiry looks to answer how the project got to this point, the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) is angling to find out some key details of the current state of Nalcor Energy.

The PUB has submitted 74 questions to Nalcor Energy that will seek to get to the heart of the current state of affairs at the Crown corporation.

The extensive list of questions is a wide-ranging list about current activities and financial transactions of Nalcor that are unknown to the public.

Near the top of the list is a request for an update on “whether the Oil and Gas and Bull Arm activities have been established as separate entities, external to the Nalcor Group of Companies as previously announced.” If the separation hasn’t happened yet, the PUB wants to know why not.

The list even includes a request for the “underlying rationale” for the creation of various Nalcor divisions, along with an explanation of “why the mandate of that decision could not be carried out by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.”

Among other questions, the PUB wants to know the annual operating and capital budgets for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for 2016-18 and the forecasts for 2019-21, the average salary paid by Nalcor and N.L. Hydro, as well as details of the calculation, along with copies of all agreements relating to the Muskrat Falls project, including full disclosure of all agreements held between Nalcor and Emera relating to the construction of the Maritime Link.

The PUB also wants to know what Nalcor is doing with regards to rate mitigation efforts, including all members of the rate mitigation committee, all associated meeting minutes, and whether or not the provincial government has “advised or directed Nalcor Energy or Newfoundland Hydro on any electricity rate mitigation policy or target to be used for domestic electricity rates.”

The extensive list of questions has an initial deadline for answers of Feb. 25, though Nalcor could, in theory, apply for extensions to answering each question.

The list of questions was sent to Nalcor on Feb. 7, just over a week before the release of the interim report on rate mitigation was released to the provincial government.

The interim report was passed to the government on Feb. 15, but has not yet been released publicly. The Department of Natural Resources is expected to release the report and hold a news conference on Tuesday to outline the government’s response to the report.

The questions asked of Nalcor will likely inform the next phase of the PUB’s study of rate mitigation options in the province, with the final report due in January 2020.

The current forecasts for electricity rates, should no government policy change, will see electricity rates double to about 22 cents per kilowatt hour.

Premier Dwight Ball has previously made commitments that “ratepayers and taxpayers will not bear the burden of Muskrat Falls.”
The interim report, to be seen on Tuesday, and the extensive list of questions to inform the final report of the PUB’s study should give the province an idea of just how much has to change to meet Ball’s commitment to keeping electricity rates down as a result of Muskrat Falls.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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