PUB exclusion from Muskrat rates irritates Opposition

A decision to keep the Public Utilities Board out of the process of setting rates for power from Muskrat Falls is not sitting well with political critics.

Government to release details on how rates will be set within the next week

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy takes questions from reporters Tuesday about details of the Muskrat Falls loan agreement term sheet 6:59

The Newfoundland and Labrador government's decision to keep the Public Utilities Board out of the process of setting rates for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is not sitting well with political critics.

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy told the house of assembly Tuesday that the PUB "will certainly not play any role" as rates are set for the 824-megawatt project, which is now awaiting government sanction.

A new process for setting those rates will be included in enabling legislation that is expected to be brought before the house in the coming days.  

Liberal and NDP politicians — who have already said they are planning a filibuster on enabling legislation, in light of the short debate expected Wednesday afternoon on a private member's motion — want the PUB to have oversight of the rates.

"Indeed, it's a 50 year commitment to rates, so I believe the PUB has a role to play," Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael agreed.

"I think that's very problematic," she said. "Especially when it comes to the needs of the people and ... when it comes to the costs that the people of the province are going to have to bear."

Kennedy, meanwhile, said that the enabling legislation will not reveal what consumers can expect to pay if Muskrat Falls proceeds.

"The legislation will outline how we are going to go about the setting of rates. There won't be specific rates outlined in the legislation," he said.

Newfoundland and Labrador and its Crown energy corporation Nalcor maintain that Muskrat Falls represents the cheapest feasible option of supplying the domestic energy market.

If sanctioned, Nalcor will eventually decommission its oil-burning plant at Holyrood.

Kennedy and Premier Kathy Dunderdale have been sharply critical of the PUB since last winter, when the board ruled it did not receive enough information from Nalcor to make a proper decision on whether Muskrat Falls represented the least-cost option available to the province.

Just last month, Kennedy said the government had no confidence in the PUB, which he said was guilty of "an abdication of responsibility" over Muskrat Falls.