02 September 2011

Grand Riverkeepers call Joint Review Panel Report “victory” for Labradorians


From the Grand Riverkeepers news release:

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR, NL – “The Review Panel’s report reflects what we have been saying all along,” said Clarice Blake Rudkowski, president of Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. “The Lower Churchill project does not make economic sense, and environmentally, it’s simply and clearly too destructive.”

“Labrador doesn’t want this project, and Newfoundland doesn’t need it” says Grand Riverkeeper Roberta Frampton Benefiel. “Given the high transmission costs, the initial cost of Muskrat Falls power on the Island will be just as high as Holyrood, and the cost will keep going up for decades.” She added that there are almost certainly better alternatives, including conservation, on-Island wind, and other options, including offshore gas to fuel Holyrood for backup. “As the Panel pointed out, Nalcor sees the project as an end in itself, so it has never really looked for alternatives,” she said.

The Panel looked in detail at the justification for the project, alternatives to it and the many environmental concerns raised by participants in the public hearings. It found that “Nalcor’s analysis that showed Muskrat Falls to be the best and least cost way to meet domestic demand requirements is inadequate,” prompting it to call for a formal financial review and an independent analysis of alternatives before the project could proceed.

In its report, the Panel determined that the Project would have several significant adverse environmental effects, and concluded that Nalcor did not carry out a full assessment of the fate of mercury in the downstream environment. It stated that, in the event of dam failure, Nalcor “should assume liability” for all personal and financial losses, regardless of cause. And it concluded that, if alternative ways of meeting Newfoundland’s electricity needs in a way that is economically viable and environmentally and socially responsible, the Muskrat Falls project as proposed should not be permitted to proceed.

Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. participated in all of the Panel’s hearings in the province and, along with other members, made 21 separate submissions. It engaged several experts, including Philip Raphals of the Helios Centre, an expert in energy policy, to analyze the need, justification and economics of the proposal. The Review Panel retained many of his findings and recommendations concerning the inadequacy of the analysis presented and need for careful assessment of alternate supply strategies for Newfoundland. As well, our scientific advisors successfully challenged many of Nalcor’s assertions.

Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. calls on Nalcor and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to respect the Panel’s findings and follow its recommendations. Specifically:

  • It calls upon Nalcor to modify the Project in response to the 70 + recommendations concerning the biological and social environment;
  • It calls upon the Government to consult with stakeholders, including both supporters and opponents of the Project, as to the best way to proceed with the independent financial and alternatives assessment that the Panel called for, before governments decide on whether or not the project should proceed; and
  • It calls upon the Provincial Government, Newfoundland Labrador Hydro, Newfoundland Power and the Public Utilities Board to move forward with implementing an Integrated Resource Planning framework within the province, as called for by the Panel.

Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. first came together as a concerned citizens group in 1998 to challenge plans for a mega hydro dam project. In 2005,  they became affiliated with Waterkeeper Alliance  joined some 200 other Waterkeepers worldwide. The purpose of Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. is to preserve and protect the water quality and ecological integrity of the Grand River watershed and its estuary, through actions of public awareness, monitoring, intervention and habitat restoration. It actively promotes economically and environmentally sustainable ecosystem management approaches that will maintain the heritage and intrinsic value of this river for present and future generations.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact: Clarice Blake Rudkowski, President, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. 709-896-9530, Roberta Frampton Benefiel, Grand Riverkeeper & VP, 896-4164 or 897-4241 or Philip Raphals, Helios Centre, Montreal, 514-849-7900.