Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: How not to bolster public confidence: the umpteenth Nalcor edition #nlpoli

The folks at Nalcor held a media briefing at 11:00 AM on Tuesday.  it was supposed to be about the release of the independent engineer’s review of Muskrat Falls done as part of the federal loan guarantee.

You may recall this was part of some great confusion a few months ago when the provincial energy department answered an access to information request by saying they didn’t have a copy of the report only to have it emerge that Nalcor had had the report since the previous November and briefed at least a couple of cabinet ministers on it in the meantime.

That led to a bizarro series of telephone conversations between energy minister Derek Dalley and the Telegram’s James McLeod that just added to the sense that Dalley  – among others – had no idea what was going on in the world. Later on the provincial government announced they were . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: How not to bolster public confidence: the umpteenth Nalcor edition #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Major Muskrat Costs Missing #nlpoli

As of April 4, Nalcor was “still in the process of negotiating and letting some large contracts for the [Muskrat Falls] project.”

That’s the reply the Telegram got from Nalcor about missing the Muskrat financial update the company was supposed to issue at the end of March.

Haven’t got the information yet.

Okay.

Well, that’s a bit troubling in itself, given that Nalcor is supposed to be reporting monthly to the provincial government on project costs.  So if Nalcor is telling the provincial government that sort of information they can tell the people who are paying the bills (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Will wonders never cease? #nlpoli

As it turned out,  the “robust” oversight of the Muskrat Falls project that everyone was making a big deal about a few weeks ago is  – as your humble e-scribbler suspected – an awful lot less than some thought it would be.

What a surprise.

-srbp-

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: D’oh! Telegram shags up Muskrat Falls access story #nlpoli

According to a major Telegram story on Monday morning, the provincial government won’t be able to release some information about Muskrat Falls because of the provincial access to information  laws.

There’s only one problem:  the Telegram got the whole thing wrong.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nalcor Oversight #nlpoli

The provincial government will be establishing a committee of senior public servants to co-ordinate information on Muskrat Falls for cabinet.

VOCM faithfully reported Premier Tom Marshall’s comments to reporters outside the House of Assembly.  The people want more, says Tom, so the Conservatives are going to give the public more oversight.  The new committee will receive monthly project updates and quarterly financial updates from Nalcor, according to the VOCM story. The committee will issue an annual report.

All new stuff supposedly.

Except it isn’t.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Silence is the perfect expression of scorn #nlpoli

by JM and EGH

The BBC online news magazine carried an article on March 10 that should be of interest to all those following the Muskrat Falls debate.

“Do massive dams ever make sense?” summarizes the work of researchers at Oxford University.  They studied more than 245 large dams completed between 1934 and 2007. 

A large dam is one with a wall height of more than 15 metres.  Muskrat Falls would meet the study criteria

The researchers found that dams ran 96% over their approved budgets, on average. One Brazilian dam went 240% over budget.  With few exceptions,  the researchers found that the dams were not economically viable.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nalcor running own show on Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

Nalcor Energy is running the Muskrat Falls project without any independent oversight from the provincial government.

In two interviews with the Telegram’s James McLeod  natural resources minister Derrick Dalley identified Nalcor boss Ed Martin as the government’s chief source of information on the project.  According to Dalley,  Martin passes information to the deputy minister of natural resources who passes it to Dalley.

Additionally, noted Dalley’s communications director in an e-mail sent between the two interviews, the “Departments of Finance and Natural Resources work in close collaboration with Nalcor Energy and have regular meetings and exchanges of information…”.

McLeod asked Dalley repeatedly about any use by the provincial government of its own independent sources to vet Nalcor’s work.  Dalley replied that the department didn’t have the expertise to duplicate that of Nalcor.  What’s more,  Daley asked rhetorically,  “why would we duplicate within the department [of natural resources]” the work going on . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nalcor running own show on Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Maritime Link delayed almost a year #nlpoli

From the Chronicle Herald:

In its letter, the board also points out that parts of the project have been delayed. That includes a 10-month change in the timeline for the transition to start-up and operations. Commissioning of the 180-kilometre cable is slated to be completed by October 2017 rather than December 2016.  [emphasis added]

-srbp-

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Chill up spine time #nlpoli

Two separate e-mails plunked the same article in the SRBP inbox on Friday.

Both highlighted the same quote from this National Post story on Muskrat Falls financing:

“The benefit of the guarantee was that no one had to look at the merits of the underlying project,” says Steve Halliday, managing director and head of global credit trading and distribution at TD.

So the investors bought into the project without looking at the merits of the project.

How many ways can that be bad for the people who will be stuck paying for it?

-srbp-

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Third Line #nlpoli

Most people in Newfoundland and Labrador never think about the electricity into their homes.  They don’t know where it comes from and they certainly don’t have any idea how it gets from the generating plants to their fridges, washing machines, and television sets.

People are thinking about those things a lot more these days, in the wake of the recent power supply crisis.

One of the issues you will likely hear a lot more about in upcoming hearings by the public utilities board is about a new power transmission line from the hydro generating station at Bay d’Espoir across the isthmus and on to Holyrood.

Here’s some additional information about the project.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Crises within crises #nlpoli

The action of the Soviet Union, Winston Churchill once said, “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

Some people in Newfoundland and Labrador likely felt that way after Day Three of Kathy Dunderdale’s one woman crusade to deny that the province is experiencing a crisis.

Most people just cock their heads to one side and mouth the three letters W, T, and F.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The SRBP 9th Anniversary #nlpoli

It all started on January 3, 2005 and as of today, the Sir Robert Bond Papers is nine years old.

As your humble e-scribbler writes this on Thursday evening, the hang at Nalcor have managed the provincial electrical system so ineffectively that on the coldest night of the year so far,  they are forcing people to live for unspecified periods in complete darkness without heat so that Nalcor can cope with the load on the island transmission grid.

These same people are now building a massive hydro-electric project that will produce some of the most expensive electricity in North America (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Hollowmen of Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Some of you may have been surprised to find out this weekend that Nalcor has a scheme to import cheap electricity into the province.

A couple of Nalcor officials could barely contain their excitement in an interview with the Telegram’s James McLeod. Here’s the idea in a nutshell:

Essentially, Nalcor would slow down or shut off some of its hydro dams and let the water build up in the reservoir, while buying cheap power from the market. Then later, during peak demand times on the mainland, Nalcor would run the hydro dams flat out and turn a profit.

You are probably scratching your head because the provincial government has always insisted Muskrat Falls was the cheapest way to supply the province with electricity.

Well, now you know they lied.

But that’s really the smallest implication of the weekend story.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Inertia #nlpoli

In a letter last May to his federal counterpart, economic development minister Keith Hutchings described minimum processing requirements as the “only only policy instrument within provincial jurisdiction that ensures fisheries resources adjacent to the province result in processing jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

For those who do not know what they are,  minimum processing requirements are a condition that the provincial government sets on the licenses it gives to companies that process fish in the province.  The name says it all:  the companies have to process a certain amount of the fish in order to create jobs in fish plants around Newfoundland and Labrador.

There’s been a fairly steady row about processing rules over the past decade as the companies struggle to stay financially viable.  There are way too many plants for the amount of fish available and there are way too many people in the province drawing pathetically small . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Inertia #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Friday Foursome #nlpoli

1.  Nova Scotian customers protected; this province not. (Telegram, December 11, 2013) by Ron Penney and David Vardy

The UARB has been empowered to protect the interests of consumers against their public utility, Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Emera. Emera is a publicly traded corporation working in partnership with Nalcor Energy, a non-regulated Crown corporation, to build the Maritime Link. The government of Nova Scotia allowed the UARB to balance the interests of ratepayers and the proponent, a privately owned company, at arm’s length from government.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador took a divergent course of action. They joined hands with their Crown corporation and made it immune from regulatory control.

They took away the powers of our own PUB, so it could not protect the interests of ratepayers. They sanctioned the Muskrat Falls project prematurely and weakened the ability of Nalcor to negotiate . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Friday Foursome #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Muskrat Falls costs jump by $1.0 billion #nlpoli

Cost estimates for the Muskrat Falls project have apparently jumped by 16% -  $1.0 billion  – in the past year.  That’s based on information released by the provincial government on Tuesday and the details of the federal loan guarantee.

The new price appears to be $7.2 billion.  The Decision Gate 3 estimate, released in October 2012, was $6.2 billion for the Muskrat Falls dam, a tie to Churchill Falls, and the line to Soldier’s Pond on the island of Newfoundland.

The new cost is 44% more than the $5.0 billion cost estimate for the dam and island link components of the project when it was approved in late 2010. 

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Moments #nlpoli

There’s something perverse about the way politicians these days use a memorial to the dead of two world wars in the last century as a backdrop for their own political spectacles.

That’s what Kathy Dunderdale did – yet again – on Tuesday night to tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians about something she regards as truly wonderful.

“This is one of those occasions we should tell our children about,” said Premier Kathy Dunderdale on province-wide television Tuesday night, “and help them understand how important this moment is for them and their future.”

She’s right.

It will be important to mark this moment in time.  We’ll have to help generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians not yet even born understand the magnitude of what Dunderdale and her associates have done.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Feehan dissects Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

According to a new commentary on the Muskrat Falls project by Memorial University economist James Feehan,  legislation passed in December 2012 shields Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro from competition, thereby “reducing efficiency and innovation and preventing wholesale access to American consumers” by violating the open market principles on which the American electricity market is based.

Feehan concludes that potential gains for the province and consumers from unimpeded trade and the development of a competitive market will be blocked.

“Instead, Island ratepayers will be forced to pay for this expensive project, whatever the cost.”

-srbp-

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: O brother… #nlpoli

There are times when the talk in the province sounds a bit like the soundtrack to a movie,  a comedy to be precise.

On Monday, finance minister Tom Marshall sounded a bit familiar:  “This is a golden age, Mr. Speaker,”  Marshall said, “a golden age.”

Recall only a few years ago, Marshall was talking about Muskrat Falls like it was Bay d’Espoir:  build a hydroelectric facility to supply lots of cheap electricity for industry that can create jobs for the people who will pay for it all. Now Bay d’Espoir is another story altogether, but there’s a bit more to the history that makes this click together.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: 20 Answers to the Telly’s 20 Questions (Part 2) #nlpoli

(Continued from Part 1)

On October 19, Russell Wangersky wrote a column for The Telegram entitled "20 questions for the premier." Mr. Wangersky posed questions about the development of the Muskrat Falls project.

On November 9, Premier Kathy Dunderdale replied.

Unfortunately, the Premier did not provide much factual information. In the interest of informing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on this important issue, here are 20 clear answers to 20 clear questions. The information presented here comes from the provincial government and Nalcor as well as publicly available information, such as  electricity markets across northeastern North America.  The post includes links to background information.

The Second 10 Questions

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: 20 Answers to the Telly’s 20 Questions (Part 1) #nlpoli

On October 19, Russell Wangersky wrote a column for The Telegram entitled "20 questions for the premier." Mr. Wangersky posed questions about the development of the Muskrat Falls project.

On November 9, Premier Kathy Dunderdale replied.

Unfortunately, the Premier did not provide much factual information. In the interest of informing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on this important issue, here are 20 clear answers to 20 clear questions. The information presented here comes from the provincial government and Nalcor as well as publicly available information, such as  electricity markets across northeastern North America.  The post includes links to background information.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Firm and Unfirm #nlpoli

With the House of Assembly open again, the major topic of Question Period was Muskrat Falls and the second version of the deal to ship power to Nova Scotia.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale explained it on Monday in terms of firm and “non-firm”.  Firm power is what you know that the hydro plants will be able to produce reliably.  The unfirm power is the stuff that you can get when there is plenty of water.

What’s interesting is how much of this unfirm power the Premier says is around.  It is:

“half a terawatt to four or five terawatts a year. Based on fifty years of hydrogeology, the amount of snow or rain in this Province, we have been able to commit to Emera 1.2 extra terawatts of power on average; …, some years that might be 0.5 terawatt, another year that might be three.”

On the face of it, that . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Firm and Unfirm #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Oil and Gas Update: 2013 edition #nlpoli

First, the oil.

Regular readers will recall the Article 82 issue that will affect how much money the provincial government collects from oil and gas development outside the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.  Article 82 of the Law of the Sea Convention requires the coastal state to put up to seven percent of royalties from offshore oil and gas into a fund that will go to other countries.

CBC reported on Monday that neither the federal nor provincial governments have figure out how they’ll deal with it.  The federal government may have legal jurisdiction but the 1985 Atlantic Accord gives the provincial government the same ability to set revenues from offshore resources as if they were on land.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Gnarley Saga #nlpoli

In case you missed it, flip over to Des Sullivan’s blog Uncle Gnarley and look at the tale Des has put together about why Jerome Kennedy quit politics so abruptly a couple of weeks ago:

“1. Over the last number of months Kennedy had grown weary of Nalcor’s secrecy. He was frustrated that his own officials could not get sufficient information to confirm Nalcor’s numbers or perform their own analysis. His Department was expected to accept Nalcor’s information entirely on its face.

2. Mr. Kennedy wanted his own staff, supplemented by outside experts, to comprise an “Oversight Committee” for the (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: So the photo ops were a deception? #nlpoli

Reporters asked the premier on Wednesday about comments by Nova Scotia premier-elect Stephen McNeil about Muskrat Falls. 

Here’s what CBC reported:

"Our contract — our agreement — is with Emera. They’re going to sell the power to Nova Scotia," she said.

The Telegram had an extra bit along the same lines:

“I just want to remind people again that the agreement between Newfoundland and Labrador — Nalcor specifically — is with Emera. Emera is a publicly traded company,” she said.

She also told reporters that the agreements with Nova Scotia covered off every possible outcome so everything was just fine.

Whatever.

(Read more…)