There’s information, and then there’s confusion. The provincial government is fond of saying that there has never been as much information released about a project as there has been about Muskrat Falls. That, supposedly, is proof of how accountable the whole venture is.
Well, accountability isn’t just releasing a bunch of documents: it’s being clear about what they mean.
On Monday, the day before Christmas Eve, the provincial government released a series of orders-in-council — in other words, cabinet orders — made not this week or last week, but way back in late November. There were 13 in all, and every one of them was in relation to Muskrat Falls.
Here’s just one, in its entirety.
“Under the authority of section 5.1 of the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994, the Lieutenant Governor in Council is pleased to direct the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities to adopt a policy, subject to section 3, that:
1) Any expenditures, payments or compensation paid directly or indirectly by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, under an agreement or arrangement to which the Muskrat Falls Project Exemption Order applies, to:
a) a LiL (Labrador-Island Link) Party,
b) a system operator in respect of a tariff for transmission services or ancillary services in respect of the LiL, that otherwise would have been made to a LiLParty, or
c) Muskrat Falls Corporation, in respect of:
i) electrical power and energy forecasted by Muskrat Falls Corporation and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to be delivered to, consumed by, or stored by or on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for use within the province, whether or not such electrical power and energy is actually delivered, consumed, or stored within the province,
ii) greenhouse gas credits, transmission services and ancillary services, and
iii) obligations of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in addition to those in paragraphs (i) and (ii) to ensure the ability of Muskrat Falls Corporation and Labrador Transmission Corporation to meet their respective obligations under financing arrangements related to the construction and operation of Muskrat Falls and the LTA (Labrador Transmission Assets) shall be included as costs, expenses or allowances, without disallowance, reduction or alteration of those amounts, in Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s cost of service calculation in any rate application and rate setting process, so that those costs, expenses or allowances shall be recovered in full by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in Island interconnected rates charged to the appropriate classes of ratepayers;
2) The costs, expenses or allowances of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro described above, and the rates for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro established by the Board of Commissioners pursuant to the direction under section 1, shall not be subject to subsequent review, and shall persist without disallowance, reduction or alteration of those costs, expenses or allowances or rates, throughout any processes for any public utility, including Newfoundland Power Inc., or any other process under the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 or the Public Utilities Act;
3) Notwithstanding sections 1 and 2, no amounts paid by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro described in those sections shall be included as costs, expenses or allowances in Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s cost of service calculation or in any rate application or rate setting process, and no such costs, expenses or allowances shall be recovered by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in rates:
a) where such amounts are directly attributable to the marketing or sale of electrical power and energy by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to persons located outside of the province on behalf of and for the benefit of Muskrat Falls Corporation and not Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro; and
b) in any event, in respect of each of Muskrat Falls, the LTA or the LiL, until such time as the project is commissioned or nearing commissioning and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is receiving services from such project.
4) In this Order in Council, terms shall have the same meaning ascribed to them in the Muskrat Falls Project Exemption Order.”
So there you go.
You can just feel the clarity and transparency in that one, can’t you? And there are 12 more.
Russell Wangersky is editorial page editor of the St. John’s Telegram. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.