20 January 2012

Muskrat Falls: Cum on feel the Noize #nlpoli #cdnpoli

According to natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy, criticism of the government’s refusal to give the public utilities board the time it asked for to complete a review of Muskrat Falls is “political white noise by those who are adamantly opposed to the project and will never agree, no matter what.”

That’s a weird idea given that the most recent person to say the PUB should be given the time it needs is none other than Muskrat Falls lover Wade Locke.

You can tell the provincial government is under intense pressure when its chief salesman for the $6.2 billion megaproject has nothing but personal smears for anyone who speaks unkindly of anything related to the project.

Kennedy also said that critics of the project are now focusing on the PUB deadline because “they’re finding difficulty in criticizing the project.”

Denial is not just a river in Egypt,after all.  Truth is that so far the project’s critics have been able to call every single aspect of the proposal into question, including the notion that it is the lowest cost option to meet the electricity needs in the province.

That’s likely why Kennedy and his colleagues want to stifle further detailed public discussion. As it turned out, though, their decision to cut short the PUB review has just undermined public confidence in the process, let alone the project. 

Incidentally, two public opinion polls by NTV News found that support for Muskrat falls plummeted from 71% of respondents in February 2011 to 42% by October.  That was before the most recent series of problems for the provincial government, including the pissing match with the PUB.

- srbp -

4 comments:

Jerry Bannister said...

Ed,

While I have no idea what to make of the back-and-forth on Wade Locke's public lecture, it has obscured a more important question for Muskrat Falls: Why now?

Aside from the debate over cost predictions and the array of technical issues, one could make the case against Muskrat Falls solely on the basis of timing.

Given the state of the NL economy, the province does not need the additional stimulus right now of a massive megaproject. One could argue that if Muskrat Falls needs to be built, it would be better to wait until the provincial economy cools off. While the argument of selling the power outside the province for a profit seems to have fallen off the political table, so too has the argument that it needs to be built now to provide jobs.

Taking the time to pursue different options, which is the point that Jim Feehan and others have been trying to make, is a more potent criticism of the Muskrat Falls project than any of the real or apparent costing discrepancies in Wade Locke's presentation Tuesday evening.

What Muskrat Falls needed was a debate; what it's getting instead is a media circus.

Jerry

Edward Hollett said...

At one point the other night Wade insisted this project had to happen urgently. He offered no reason why and no one can explain why.

Simple answer: it doesn't. I think there is a consensus out there that there are ways of meeting need in the near term (maybe out 20 years) that would give us time to study alternatives in more detail.

The harder people push this, whether it is Wade, Jerome or Kathy, the more suspicious people are getting. The fact that credible critics are raising solid points that proponents can't answer further undermines confidence and, frankly, the story in today's paper really just makes the whole thing look that much worse for the people backing it.

Jerry Bannister said...

If no one can provide sufficient evidence that the project urgently needs to be built now, then the details of the cost predictions are moot.

I hope you're right about the impact of the latest news cycle; my concern is that the intense media focus on Wade Locke is soaking up too much public attention at a criticial juncture. But, as you say, at least now no one can claim that there isn't a controversy over Muskrat Falls.

Edward Hollett said...

For 300 million or so you can solve any immediate issues (i.e. within three to five years).

At the current rate of this project, you couldn't get first power by 2017 now anyway.