Thursday, 25 April 2013


Most comments, received on Uncle Gnarley Blog, are located on the “Comments” section following each Post.  Occasionally, however, a comment drops into my personal “Inbox” which are read, appreciated and, like all others sooner or later, “deleted”.  Recently, a private email arrived, which I thought summarised the frustrations of many with respect to the behaviour of the current Government.  It also offered a view of the Muskrat Falls Project, and its boosters, which I felt should be shared. 

We sometimes forget that very busy, serious, intelligent and talented citizens head out each day to work, to volunteer and, in a variety of ways, to enable others in the search of self-improvement.  In so doing, they enrich our Province and each of us, personally.  Many, and especially, the writer whose email I am publishing today, have spent a lifetime sharing their enormous talents.  They eschew publicity, unless it is essential to their mission. They work hard and their dedication often goes unheralded; they keep an ear to government and politics, but their time only goes so far.
While music, art and education underpin our way of life there are many facets that make a society whole, that make it strong.  Likely, the dedicated citizens, to whom I refer, share a frustration that overwhelms and they have to say what’s on their mind. 

No name is ascribed but one incredibly talented and generous citizen expressed himself recently, this time with an uncharacteristic disregard for timbre.

TO:  Des Sullivan

Like most people in this province, I tried to keep an open mind on this project when it was first touted, although I had instinctive misgivings because of the way it was being promoted and the heavy-handed third-world approach by both government and Nalcor. Never any answers to the real questions being asked; legislative over-riding of the vital role of the PUB; misleading statements about "revenue" when we all know that consumer charges for an energy monopoly do not constitute "revenue" to the province, but a disguised form of taxation of a captive public with no assurance of external revenue through exports or even industrial usage; character assassination of critics; no proven demand for power (1%?); potential giveaway to Alderon; changing rationale (we will sell to the U.S.; we won't sell to the U.S.; we have power to sell; we need all the power for our own industrial development;) etc. etc.

The whole thing smells like last summer's fish, and looks like a bureaucratic boondoggle being ram-rodded through a political giveaway of biblical proportions. It makes the much-abused Upper Churchill deal look like a godsend; at least that project provided a lot of construction jobs, built a town where some 600 people have lived and worked for the past half-century with all the economic spin-off to the province which that implies, and actually pays some money into our coffers each year (not nearly enough, to be sure, but at least we're not paying off a 10-12 billion dollar debt which will be the case with Muskrat! The people of Newfoundland & Labrador would be up in arms if it weren't for their religious worship of Danny Williams, who can do no wrong because he owns the Ice Caps, and if he's for Muskrat then it must be all right (Alderon and Brian Tobin notwithstanding!)

I didn't mean to rant in sending you this note, so I apologize. But I am angry that my own questions have never been answered, and that we seem to be hell-bent-for-leather on the road to financial disaster after finally becoming the "have" province which Brian Peckford predicted three decades ago.

The Upper Churchill deal was hailed unanimously by all parties in the House of Assembly in the 1960s, there was NO dissenting voice in the province, or in the media, despite all the brilliant lawyers we had living here who later became born-again evangelists of escalator clauses. Now there is a roiling sea of criticism and dissent, amazingly in a non-partisan environment. When I see the well-researched, thoughtful essays of John Collins, Cabot Martin, Dave Vardy, Ron Penney, Des Sullivan and so many knowledgeable citizens, I cannot believe that government is not at least re-thinking their position and, at least, allowing the PUB to do its work as the public guardian it is mandated to be. Democracy?

We live in perilous times, indeed. 




  1. Des... This is an excellent summary of what is wrong with this project. Nalcor and Government have not listened to the dissenters. They have also not clearly communicated why we need this project now. But most importantly they have not discussed the tremendous risk associated with the project. Cost over-runs, no markets, NS UARB approval, and the technical feasibility of the subsea link will put 50 years of risk to the Newfoundland Taxpayer. But the biggest risk is that the demand growth on the island does not grow as predicted by Nalcor. When you look at the state of corner brook, our demographics, and improvements in technology the demand predictions can only be considered optimisitic at best. Instead of strengthening our position in 2041, Muskrat Falls will bury us in debt, and will weaken our position in 2035 when we again need to negotiate with Hydro Quebec. Why are we building this now!! Please Nalcor tell me why?

  2. As I read the writer's comments, it brought back to me the many concerns I have shared with you and others over the past two years. I take no credit for any originality and I have certainly relied on "in the know" people like yourself, Mr. Sullivan, but I have also come to the firm conclusion that this project simply makes no sense for all of the reasons I am repeating ad neauseum:

    1. It will never make any money, simply because the cost of building it is $8 BILLION dollars and climbing. That figure will not go away and it will become a millstone around our necks, fiscally and financially.

    2. We DON'T need the power now and will likely NEVER need it.

    3. Do we need to plan for a cleaner Holyrood?...absolutely! Do we need to replace Holyrood?...absolutely, but with other forms of thermal generation, which has been factored into their plans. We simply cannot take the risk of not having a back-up source of power for hydro, no matter where it comes from, and gas turbines will be a reality no matter how much hydro power is available.

    4. Nova Scotia will benefit immensely from this power at relatively cheap prices while we subsidize their industry. How stupid can we be?

    5. Do we have a market for Muskrat power?...yes, but only if we are prepared to heavily subsidize that power to consumers outside the province. Does THAT make any sense? Not to anybody with a modicum of financial sense.

    6. Have the critics been listened to? Absolutely not. In fact, they have been severely muzzled, including the PUB. Why? Because the government knows full well that their plan would NEVER stand up to a fair and impartial assessment.

    7. Is there collusion and obfuscation? Absolutely, yes, in my opinion, based on the passage of Bill 29 and the changes to legislation restricting any sale or distribution of power by sources outside the province. This is a government- sponsored monopoly, designed to enrich the few by captivating the many, but worse than that, it is government by a small cadre of politicians who don't seem capable of understanding the serious implications of their actions.

    8. We are seeing our oil money being frittered away to support a grandiose scheme that should never have seen the light of day. Not only is it a wasteful and totally unnecessary project, it will create a double whammy...rob us of needed revenue while ensuring we indebt ourselves for generations.

    9. It ignores the energy revolution sweeping the entire planet, to rely on hydro technology that is fast becoming obsolete. The irony of 2041 is that, by the time we get there, such power may very well be more expensive than other alternatives.

    10. We are being dragged back into a feudal age by a government with no real conception of leadership and no real vision. They lurch from one crisis to another but we are supposed to take comfort in their ability to oversee a project of this magnitude.

    Frustration and disgust at the myopia of the current provincial leadership is evident in the many signs of protest coming from many different sources. However, they have hunkered down though and don't want to face reality. Who do we hold accountable when the chickens come home to roost? Throwing them out of office will NOT reverse this monumental mistake.

  3. $8 billion is $800 million more then last estimate - does this include Northern Spur costed fix?

    Nalcor and government have been skimpy on cross comparisons of alternatives to MF --> 500MW natural gas plant will cost X to construct and maintain, use X amount of fuel annually, list the various sources for NG or imported LNG (long term supply contract).

    Cost of expanding Upper Churchill (+872 MW)

    Island grid integration and update/upgrade - how many current MWs of power are unavailable due to sub par transmission system (spilling water on Island hydro)?

    Consideration of Deer Lake power on the grid - someone pointed out NOT running the mill in winter - has anyone responded to this idea officially?

    Available small scale Avalon hydro (850MW) with wind power supplemental.

    Hands off approach with PRIVATE tenders for Holyrood replacement - far too capitalistic for Crown monopoly Nalcor?

    Bills 29/60/61 prove MF can't stand on its own merits: must be propped up with archaic and protectionism draconian laws.

    NS ratepayers are asking more Qs about the cost of MF-ML power - 12 cent Emera kWh quoted price as of late. MF-ML is only a tiny fraction of NS 'green' commitment generation, a no name band-aid if you will.

    16.4 cent kWh was Nalcor's amusing initial residential cost for NL ratepayers (cost of producing MF power with transmission and cost overruns 20++++ cents kWh)

    NB and export markets will get MF power at 25-50% of NS rate or 3-6 cents kWh. NS 12 cents will be at least 40% less than cost to produce MF power.

    Including discounted 'industry' power in NL residential ratepayers could be quad subsidizing 60% of MFs rated capacity EIGHT TO SEVENTEEN cents per kWh.

    Nalcor needs to provide a realistic NL demand chart - MUCH higher prices can't equate level or increasing demand.

    Journalism (CBC Telegram VOCM)on this MF issue has been near non existent - some can even be accused of projecting their own bias FOR MF by belittling or ignoring alternative options or solutions.