Nfld. & Labrador

Halt Muskrat Falls process now, hearing told

Three former top advisors to previous Tory premiers told a public hearing that the current PC government is on the wrong track with the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject.

Three former top advisors to previous Tory premiers told a public hearing that the current PC government is on the wrong track with the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject.

"We don't want to be the highest electrical cost area — or one of them — in North America," Cabot Martin, a policy advisor to former premier Brian Peckford, told the Public Utilities Board Monday as he laid out a case for a slower, more thorough review of Muskrat Falls.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale has refused to give the PUB time beyond its March 31 deadline to study whether the $6.2-billion megaproject on Labrador's Churchill River is better than alternatives, primarily generating power on Newfoundland.

"The board must be looking at the same information the cabinet is looking at," Martin said. "Otherwise, it's an impossibly illogical situation."

Former senior civil servants David Vardy and Ron Penney also addressed the PUB, arguing that significantly more study is needed.

"The Muskrat Falls project is of such a scale and nature that once a decision has been made, there's no turning back," Vardy said.

"We cannot make piecemeal adjustments. The costs of Muskrat Falls are all up front and inescapable," he said.

Penney told the PUB that the stakes of its review are historic.

"This issue ... is the biggest public policy issue to have faced the province," he said.

The PUB, meanwhile, also heard evidence that Muskrat Falls — which is intended to replace the aging oil-burning generating station at Holyrood — cannot come quickly enough.

Tracy Walzthoni, who lives near the Holyrood power station, described how pollution has affected her health and wellbeing, sometimes making it difficult to breathe.

"I think if it was sitting in the middle of St. John's, there would have been something more done a long, long time ago," she said.