Williams disappointed by indecisive PUB report on Muskrat Falls development
Former Premier Danny Williams said today that he is both disappointed in and disturbed by the recently released Public Utilities Board (PUB) Report on the Muskrat Falls development. Williams said the inability of the PUB to reach a recommendation after 9 months and millions of dollars is unacceptable; and that past statements had already shown a bias against the project.
'When I read the report brought down by the PUB, I was deeply disappointed in the indecisive nature of the report; and more so I was troubled by the conclusions put forward by the board largely based on opinions of private citizens as opposed to the experts at Nalcor and Manitoba Hydro,' said Mr. Williams. 'Unfortunately, if you look back at the comments made by Board early in this process it became clear that opinions had already been formed. I have never before seen a quasi-judicial body make such negative and prejudicial statements in the middle of a review. It concerned me greatly at the time, but I had hoped those careless comments would not have carried over into the final report. Clearly, those opinions formed the basis of the final document as the board had backed itself into a corner several months ago with such strong statements.'
Williams went onto say that he still fully supports the Muskrat Falls development, and is troubled by some of the irresponsible commentary that has been put forward in the public domain - much of which appears to be held in high regard by the PUB in their review. While legitimate concerns and questions serve to bring about the best project possible, inaccuracies and fear mongering serve only to inhibit progress and future prosperity for the province.
'I have a serious concern that the PUB quotes extensively the personal opinions of former bureaucrats and academia, while ignoring the world-class experts at Nalcor,' added Williams. 'They even ignored their own hired experts at Manitoba Hydro. The team at Manitoba Hydro asked some responsible and appropriate questions in their review of the project, but ultimately confirmed the fact that Muskrat Falls is the least cost option. It makes absolutely no sense to me for the PUB to ignore the people at Nalcor who have the experience, the knowledge, and the education to make the right decisions. These professionals have absolutely nothing to gain by moving forward with a project that is not in the best interest of the province.'
Given the endorsement of the project by the Consumer Advocate, Manitoba Hydro (with conditions) and representatives from all political parties, the abdication of the PUB in making a recommendation is baffling, said Williams. 'I am concerned that perhaps the board wanted to wash their hands of any responsibility of this project in the very unlikely event that something goes wrong. The history of the Upper Churchill is a powerful force in this province and some people are just simply too fearful of the ghost of 'Churchill past' to move forward with what is a great project. But we must never fear making bold decisions for great rewards.'
Williams asserts that there has never been a better time in the history of the province to move forward with the development. 'The stars are aligned. We have in place the agreements with our Aboriginal partners; we have a federal loan guarantee worth up to a billion dollars; we have passed the environmental assessment; the world markets make financing the project very feasible; we have an agreement in place with our Atlantic Partners to circumvent Quebec; and we have an incredible opportunity to make Newfoundland and Labrador a province based on almost 100% clean, renewable energy. And the icing on the cake is that this project puts Newfoundland and Labrador in the energy business. We need this power and we need this project.' "
There you have it. A nasty, manipulative attack on the credibility of the Commissioners of the PUB from the former premier. This from the very man whose PC government appointed every one of the four Commissioners to the Board. From the man whose PC government placed the PUB in the position by tasking them with the job in the first place. A diatribe so flawed in its logic, and so spurious in its commentary that it requires challenging.
Firstly, the PUB did not ignore Nalcor, Manitoba Hydro, or its officials. In fact, evidence given by these groups is evident and referred to throughout the PUB's decision. So to accuse the PUB of :
" ignoring the world-class experts at Nalcor,"added Williams."They even ignored their own hired experts at Manitoba Hydro." is in itself ignoring the facts and stating apparent falsehoods.
Secondly, to frame Nalcor as a "world class" organization is at best a dramatic overstatement. Manitoba Hydro itself pointed out that Nalcor was not even living up to NERC standards. That's North American industry standards - let alone world standards. Williams would also know that Nalcor's power generation assets, and particularly income from those assets, places Nalcor behind even regional companies like New Brunswick Power. So to call Nalcor a world class organization is a shameful attempt to fan Newfoundland nationalism for the purpose of getting his own way. There are plenty of things Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can be proud of without shamelessly exaggerating the status of a crown corporation like Nalcor.
Thirdly, Williams cites endorsements of the project by representatives of all political parties. A disingenuous statement if there ever was one. Both the Official Opposition Liberals and the Third Party NDP have come out against Muskrat Falls. During the last federal election federal parties supported the notion of the project, if it was economically and environmentally viable. The provincial parties, and their representatives are very publicly against it. Their votes in the House of Assembly are obviously more relevant than what their federal cousins might say in the pursuit of votes during an election. In so far as Manitoba Hydro goes, their report specifically states they came to their conclusions based on Nalcor's assumptions and they would not warrant the report to third parties. Again, more cherry picking of facts while dismissing or ignoring the facts.
Finally, and most shockingly, Williams states:
" we have a federal loan guarantee worth up to a billion dollars"
I found that little statement the most interesting of Williams commentary. Apparently, without the public of Newfoundland and Labrador knowing it, the provincial government has in fact secured a federal loan guarantee. Not only that, but the dollar figure of that guarantee is apparently up to $1 billion. When did that happen? Some questions I have on that little gem: 1) When was the loan guarantee granted and why was the public not informed?; 2) How did Williams know about it considering a short while ago he claimed not to be able to get the cellular numbers of ministers since his departure?; and 3) Why is the loan guarantee only "up to a billion dollars"?
A billion dollar loan guarantee would only cover 20% of the province's share of the Muskrat Falls project as currently envisioned. Has the project been scaled back, and the people not been informed of that? Has the project been revised to a dam only project with assorted transmission lines, but no sub-sea links, and therefore no power to the Island? If that were the case, the $1 billion loan guarantee might cover 25-30% of the estimated cost. I am somewhat at a loss to understand why the Newfoundland and Labrador media has not been asking the government and Mr Williams why he would make such a statement. Certainly, the fact this province has a loan guarantee in place for up to a billion dollars would be considered news by most.