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Muskrat Falls Inquiry commissioner will look at work of independent engineer

Muskrat Falls Inquiry Commissioner Richard LeBlanc.
Muskrat Falls Inquiry Commissioner Richard LeBlanc. - David Maher

Richard LeBlanc revisits terms of reference, ahead of new public hearings

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Commissioner Richard LeBlanc has made a change to his published interpretation of the terms of reference from the provincial government for the ongoing Muskrat Falls Inquiry.

His original read on the terms was released in March 2018. He reserved the right to revisit the terms at any time, and now has done just that.

“It has now become apparent to me that in order to properly respond to the commission’s terms of reference it is necessary to investigate the work done by the independent engineer who was put in place as part of the federal loan-guarantee process and agreement,” he says in the written decision this week, one that goes on to note the engineer is understood to have been paid by Nalcor Energy and its subsidiaries.

“During the Phase One hearings (in 2018), some of the witnesses testifying who were involved with the consideration, approval and oversight of the Muskrat Falls project on behalf of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nalcor referred to their reliance on work done by and on behalf of the independent engineer,” he states. “As such, it is clearly within the mandate of the commission to investigate that work and what was actually being disclosed to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nalcor as part of that process.”

He expects to review certain reports, emails and other communications between the Independent Engineer, and both the province and Nalcor Energy. There is reference to communications between a particular lawyer — an agent of the government of Canada — and the province and Nalcor, proponent of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

It remains the role of commission co-counsel to bring forward specific pieces of evidence for consideration by LeBlanc. While the inquiry database now contains millions of documents, the commissioner only considers what is brought forward by his co-counsel and lawyers representing the various interveners.

The interpretation of the terms of reference is meant to guide the evidence being brought forward and the questioning during the public hearings. Hearings begin again Feb. 18.

ashley.fitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

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