20 November 2009

The Tempest Tick-Tock: key events in the Hydro Quebec and NB Power tirades

It helps to put a timeline on things sometimes.

May:  While a bill that is supposed to create the energy corporation is introduced as the first bill of the session, the text of the bill doesn’t show up until near the end of the spring 2006 session. The record for the bill is bizarre.  It shows the bill passed through second reading and committee stage four days after it passed first reading.


June 4 and 5:   In a couple of short sessions and with very little public debate and discussion, the legislature passes two bills revamping the hydro corporation and creating the energy corporation.  This amounts to a massive  reworking of the province’s energy corporation, originally created in 2006.  

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro forms the initial core of the company but internal structure  creates series of interlocking directorates of subsidiaries.

NL Hydro retains exemption given in 2006  to EPCA restriction that electricity producers in province delivering to customers in province may only be engaged in electricity activities.  PUB must still set Hydro rates to ensure profitability.

At some point in the re-organization, CF(L)Co becomes a subsidiary of NALCOR instead of CFLCo.  This makes NLH – the Lower Churchill proponent – equal within the internal corporate structure  to the company that was once its subsidiary.

June 13 and 14: In a high-speed process and with very little debate or public scrutiny, the  House of Assembly amends the Electrical Power Control Act 1994 (EPCA) to lay out method for making water management agreement where two projects exist on same watercourse.   Amendments to take effect on date set by cabinet. 


June 3 and 4:   At high speed and with very little debate, the legislature approves major changes to the energy corporation legislation. Includes significant changes to the rules governing creation of subsidiaries, as well as massive changes to the province’s Access to Information laws to shield the company activities from scrutiny.  Cabinet retains the ability to transfer any function to the energy corporation it wishes to transfer, regardless of what it is about. 

June 3 and 4:  At high speed and with very little debate, the legislature passes a water rights management bill later revealed to strip CF(L)Co of its lease to Churchill Falls.

December 16:  Surprise seizure of hydroelectricity generation and transmission assets of three private sector companies on the island of Newfoundland (AbitibiBowater, Fortis and ENEL).  Assets assigned to NL Hydro.  NALCOR given responsibility for all government negotiations with Abitibi on compensation.


January 16:  EPCA  amendments made in 2007 come into force.  Amendments are gazetted along with regulations but there is no news release or other public notice.

April:  Talks start on water management agreement between Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and CF(L(Co) .

August 31:  Ed Martin (CEO of provincial energy corporation) tells Toronto Star that he :
… doesn't see the Quebec issue as a major stumbling block, as regulation requires the province to allow access to its grid in return for a set tariff. Hydro Quebec and Nalcor are just working out the details. 

Any costs to Ontario would build in the price of that tariff, but what's most important is how that final cost would compare to the next-best alternative. [Emphasis added]
01 Sep:  Emergency session of the legislature called for September 8 to deal with amendments to 2008 water rights legislation. 

Amendments and session are given rather benign description initially:
"This amendment is necessary in order to facilitate an agreement between Nalcor Energy or its subsidiary and CF(L)Co," said Minister Dunderdale. "As these negotiations are currently underway, we wanted to get into the House early and make this amendment to avoid any uncertainty to the parties involved. We thank the opposition for their cooperation on this matter and we look forward to further discussion on the amendment when the House reconvenes next week."
03 Sep:  In a speech to a national audience, Premier attacks Hydro Quebec for supposedly throwing up roadblocks to lower Churchill development.

04 SepDunderdale reveals the full  - the real - story.  (Locals media have not covered Dunderdale’s comments two and a half months later)

09 Sep:   Amendments pass in House emergency session.  True nature of story is revealed in comments during the debate:
“They [Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation lawyers and directors] felt that we had extinguished their rights to the whole watershed area that they require to produce electricity in the Upper Churchill and that would cause them some concern,” said [natural resources minister Kathy] Dunderdale.
Unspecified time in September:  Deal reached with CF(L)Co on water management.

October 23:  According to NALCOR, this is the date the CF(L)Co board met and rejected the deal agreement.

October 29:  NB Power deal.