Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

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…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Collins on Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

In Quebec, Jacques Parizeau has turned on the Parti Quebecois’ values charter.  It made national news.

In Newfoundland and Labrador last week, former Conservative finance minister John Collins took another swipe at Muskrat Falls in a letter to the editor of the Telegram.  Not many likely read it and no other media reported on it.

But they should have. 

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Debt, Demand, and Delusions #nlpoli

The Conservatives running the province got together with their staff and key supporters this weekend to reaffirm their conviction that they alone ought to be running the province.

Some people seem to think it’s remarkable that they stand together behind Kathy Dunderdale and her supposed wonderful charm, despite what the polls says.

There’s nothing remarkable in it at all.  People in power have a hard time understanding it when the voters turn on them. They carry on with their schemes, convinced in their own rightness.  It’s a form of self-delusion.  It’s what the mind does to help people cope when what they believe and what is true are two radically different things.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: JM’s assessment of the UARB Decision #nlpoli

According to the commentator JM, the implementation of the Utility and Review Board conditional approval will mean that “Nova Scotia will receive 60% of the power, for what amounts to about 30% of the cost” of the Muskrat Falls project.

Using information provided by Nalcor to the Public Utilities Board, JM concludes that “there is a potential 37% increase in the incremental rates charged to Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers for Muskrat Falls Energy” if Nalcor meets the UARB condition.

This would be reduced to a 10% increase if all export revenue in the early years of the project were used to offset the burden on the Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers. This is assuming that the Holyrood thermal plant can be decommissioned as per the original plan. If the allocation of additional power to Nova Scotia results in Holyrood’s life being extended beyond 2021, then these rates will potentially further . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: JM’s assessment of the UARB Decision #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Another job and a business case #nlpoli

One Conservative Kathy gave Ross Reid a new job recently. 

Last January, your humble e-scribbler had another job in mind for Reid.

Kathy came really close.

Right floor.  Wrong office.

And then there’s the other Cathy who told us a few months ago that there were multiple, interlocking business cases for Muskrat Falls.  A couple of weeks ago, she’d whittled it down to just one business case.

She still hasn’t been willing to tell us what they are or it is.

In any event, there is just one business case for Muskrat Falls, as your humble (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Time to re-think dam costs #nlpoli #nspoli

They call it Site C.

No, it isn’t a sequel to Jurassic Park or The Lost World.

Site C is a 900 megawatt hydroelectric dam project in British Columbia that BC Hydro originally estimated would cost $6.0 billion. The provincial government shielded the project from scrutiny by the provincial utilities regulator.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nalcor’s Complaints to the Regie #nlpoli

Last week, the Quebec Superior Court dismissed a motion to hear an appeal from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro over decisions taken by the Quebec’s energy regulator in 2010.

As NTV reported on Friday, “Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro asked for transmission access from Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie in January 2006. But Nalcor says it was met with delays, so it appealed to Quebec’s version of the Public Utilities Board, the Régie de l’énergie.”

That’s a fair, if very general,  account of the dispute.  You can see the same thing in the other media, such as the CBC’s online account.   The Telegram editorial on Monday described the dispute this way – “the Régie de l’énergie rejected all requested corridors for transmitting power through Québec” -  although that isn’t even close to what actually happened. 

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders – Uncle Gnarley version #nlpoli

If you want some really sharp insight into the latest developments in the Muskrat Falls saga, check out the Thursday post at Uncle Gnarley titled “Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders”.

Don’t stop when you get to the end.

Read the comments.  There are 10 more from different people who add even more insight. Here’s a sample:

Des:

The Emera application  was issued on January 28, 2013.

As soon as the carrot of Figure 4-4 was put in front of the UARB, Nalcor should have realised they were going to grab it, and refuse to give the carrot (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Relative Costs #nlpoli

Leave entirely to one side the spectacle of the guy who gets paid as the consumer advocate sitting there on the CBC flailing his arms around explaining Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s latest rate request.

Tom Johnson sounded like a Hydro spokesperson as he went on about things called “puts” and how this sort of cost was up, and this was offset by something else.  Prices on the island would go down, therefore, while in Labrador, where the issues are different, costs would go up.

Johnson did a better job of defending Nalcor than he did during Muskrat Falls.

Leave that to one side.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Cabana Cases #nlpoli

For those who want to read them, here are two decisions related to Brad Cabana’s recent Muskrat Falls case.

The first is the decision on his application to have the judge remove herself from the case:

Cabana v. Newfoundland and Labrador, 2013 NLTD(G)36

[61] Accommodating the shortcomings of a self-represented litigant does not extend to permit the Court to apply a different set of principles to the adjudication of the merits of the case or any part thereof.  I conclude that Mr. Cabana has not established that informed, reasonable and right-minded people could conclude in the circumstances (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Voids and Spatter #nlpoli

Watch too many crime shows and after a while a few of the ideas start to sing into your skull.

Take blood spatter for example.  In some kinds of violent death, lots of blood will fly around.  The drops leave a distinctive spray pattern that can tell you lots about what went on. 

And then there is sometimes the bits of the pattern that are missing.  There is sometimes a void, a gap where something that the blood spattered on is missing.

The void – the missing stuff  – sometimes tells much more than what is there.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Yakabuski nails it… again. #nlpoli

Konrad Yakabuski warned in 2006 that Newfoundland and Labrador would probably get a huge financial shock  trying to develop the Lower Churchill on its own.

Now, the knowledgeable Globe and Mail correspondent is back again with the observation that revenge motive behind Muskrat Falls is not a very successful business strategy… for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Consider this a public service for all those people who tweeted his commentary over the weekend thinking that he was chastising Hydro-Quebec.

Guess again.

-srbp-

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: More Gil Bennett nuttiness #nlpoli

Gill Bennett is a smart guy.  That’s why he is in charge of a project as large as Muskrat Falls.

So when Gil Bennett says something that obviously is not true, it looks a lot more suspicious than when he dodges the important question and answers the question no one asked.

(Read more…)