Maritime link still not guaranteed, critic says
An independent energy advisor says there is a strong possibility that Nova Scotia's private utility Emera could still back out of the Maritime link deal with Newfoundland and Labrador.
Tom Adams, who has a long history of criticism against the Muskrat Falls project, said the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) has raised major concerns about the agreement between Emera, and Newfoundland and Labrador's public utility Nalcor.
A report released by the Bank of Montreal this week suggested there's a 50-50 chance Emera won't complete the deal.
Adams believes the odds are worse than that.
"I think it's a longer shot than 50 per cent when you take into account the unresolved but newly-launched litigation from Quebec around water rights in the Churchill River," he said.
"A lot of factors are really going strongly against Muskrat Falls development, so Emera must be asking itself the question: If they don't have a regulatory guarantee for big, locked-in profits, are they really prepared to take a risk? And I think the answer to that is likely to be no."
Speaking on Thursday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Emera has already sanctioned the deal for the Maritime link, and concerns that the project won't move forward are misplaced.
"What the report says is that there's a 50 per cent chance that Emera won't sanction the Maritime link. Well, Emera sanctioned the Maritime link some months ago — it's sanctioned," Dunderdale said.
"Before we ever went to sanction, we contemplated everything that might happen within Nova Scotia in terms of the UARB, in terms of Emera, in terms of all of those kinds of things, and we have remedies for all of those issues should they arise.
"That's just part of solid planning. You don't make this kind of commitment on a wing and a prayer."
However, Adams said there is still a possibility that Emera will back out of the deal.
"Yes it's true that Emera has sanctioned [Muskrat Falls]. But sober second thought can come, particularly to publicly-traded utilities where they have to face the discipline of the credit markets," he said.
"If they go ahead with this, they're going to have to sell a lot of bonds, and if they don't feel that they're going to have the confidence of the bond market to go ahead with the very big ticket Maritime link … they will be forced into a tough decision. They may have to pull out."