Nfld. & Labrador

Williams defends proposed Energy Corp. legislation

Premier Danny Williams told the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature Wednesday that the province's new energy corporation needs to keep some information secret if it is going to cut deals with big oil companies.

Premier Danny Williams told the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature Wednesday that the province's new energy corporation needs to keep some information secret if it is going to cut deals with big oil companies. 

Williams defended the Progressive Conservatives' proposed new legislation, called An Act to Amend the Energy Corporation Act, which the opposition said would turn the Energy Corp. into a secretive organization whose activities are hidden from public view.

The premier said the province's Access to Information Act would still apply and the auditor general could still audit the Energy Corp. However, there would be limits on the corporation's ability to publicly release information deemed "commercially sensitive."

Williams said that without such limits deals like the recent $16 billion Hebron offshore oil project wouldn't happen because oil companies would never share sensitive information with the energy corporation out of a fear it would be made public.

"If these provisions are not there, then the Hebron deal would go down because the equity provision that's in the Hebron deal would not take place if corporations like Exxon Mobil and Chevron and Petro Canada and Norsk Hydro had to open their guts to the world," he said.

Williams says the restrictions would only apply to commercially sensitive information, such as technical and scientific data, financial modelling or third-party information.

He said everything else could still be disclosed to the public and could be released under the same rules that apply to other government information.

Liberal Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones attacked the legislation — also know as Bill 35 — for the second day in a row. She said the limits it creates on public access to information are unprecedented and unacceptable.

The Williams government announced the creation of the Energy Corp. in 2007 as a holding company to separate the regulated operations of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro from its unregulated activities, which are part of the organization's expanded mandate.

The corporation was established to pursue oil, gas and wind energy developments.

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