Newfoundland and Labrador Political Pot Pourri

2 posts / 0 new
Last post
jerrym
Newfoundland and Labrador Political Pot Pourri

The Liberal Ball minority government nor the loyal opposition Progressive Conservatives do not look good at the public inquiry looking at their handling of the Muskrat Falls debacle that has left Newfoundlanders facing a future of skyrocketing electricity rates and enormous environmental damage. That's probably one of the major reasons Ball called the 2019 election early in order to avoid his own public inquiry testimony creating large political re-election problems for him. Despite his attempts to avoid scrutiny before the election, all he could do was win a minority government. Ball admitted that Muskrat Falls was  “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history” in the public inquiry today.

Liberal Premier Dwight Ball took the stand Thursday at the public inquiry into cost and schedule overruns that have plagued the controversial dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River.

The 824-megawatt dam has essentially doubled in costs to more than $12.7 billion since it was sanctioned by a former Progressive Conservative government in 2012.

Ball, who called the inquiry under intense public pressure, has called Muskrat Falls “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.”

Though the project is nearly complete, the looming threat of skyrocketing electricity rates to pay for cost overruns has become a pressing issue for Ball’s government.

Ball said Muskrat Falls should never have been sanctioned, but defended his 2016 decision to carry on despite its ballooning costs, saying abandoning the project would still have been very costly and would not have solved the problems already in motion. ...

The inquiry has already heard from a parade of past and present government officials, bureaucrats and energy executives, some of whom have suggested project risks had been intentionally downplayed.

Direct questioning of the premier by inquiry counsel wrapped within two hours, significantly more quickly than other high-profile witnesses, before other lawyers questioned him....

He said he was growing concerned at former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin’s insistence that the province should pay more money to Astaldi, which was struggling to meet its targets, to prevent possible insolvency, pushing the project timeline back further and driving up costs.

Ball said he doubted any number would solve “the Astaldi problem” and did not want Martin negotiating a settlement alone.

Ball said the importance of Astaldi’s contract to Italy was made clear by then-ambassador Gian Lorenzo Cornado’s persistent requests for a meeting, including an unexpected encounter with him at a hotel lobby in Toronto that Ball described as “probably not coincidental.” ...

The premier was also asked to address testimony from last month, when senior government officials revealed that time had run out to mitigate risks from methylmercury contamination downstream from the dam when the reservoir is fully impounded later this summer.

Research has indicated that flooding the uncleared reservoir near the dam could cause a spike in methylmercury contamination in wild food sources used by local Indigenous communities. Methylmercury is formed as vegetation rots under water and can contaminate fish and other crucial wild foods.

http://digital.timescolonist.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

 

 

jerrym

Muskrat Falls also presents an enormous environmental risk to people as this May 2019 article illustrates. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people have been left to face the extremely dangerous risk of methylmercury poisoning by Liberal and Conservative governments. 

methylmercury[is] a neurotoxin so dangerous the World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten chemicals of public health concern.

In the next year, when the Muskrat Falls hydro dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River floods an area twice the size of the city of Victoria, methylmercury will immediately start to contaminate the food chain as microbes feed on inorganic carbon stored in flooded soils and vegetation, setting off a sequence of events. ...

“It’s widely known that hydroelectric development has a methylmercury impact,” said Ryan Calder, a Duke University postdoctoral associate and expert on the methylmercury impacts of hydroelectric development. “That is beyond question at this point.”

When large hydro dams flood river valleys and forests, microbes convert inorganic mercury — found in soils worldwide in greatly increased levels due to coal-fired power plants and other industrial activities — into methylmercury, the type of mercury of greatest concern for human health. 

Most human exposure to methylmercury comes from eating fish, although marine mammals like seals and other traditional foods can also carry high levels. ...

Mercury impacts extend far beyond area considered in environmental assessment: Harvard study

Lake Melville, a brackish subarctic estuary downstream from the Muskrat Falls dam, was not included in an environmental assessment conducted by Nalcor, the province’s publicly owned energy corporation. 

Nalcor said it did not study Lake Melville — designated an “ecologically and biologically significant area” by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat — because it predicted that the Muskrat Falls dam would have no measurable impacts on the estuary, a traditional Inuit hunting and fishing ground.  ...

Ryan Calder, was a civil engineer and PhD student at Harvard University’s School of Public Health at the time, was one of a half-dozen American and Canadian scientists who worked on the peer-reviewed research project, led by Harvard.

There was no reason for Nalcor to cut off the Muskrat Falls dam environmental assessment study area at the boundary of Lake Melville, Calder told The Narwhal.

“There’s no scientific basis to say that there’s no impacts. There’s all kinds of data from Quebec and Brazil that show that in many cases downstream impacts are greater than from reservoirs … the methylmercury comes from the bottom of the reservoir and what comes out of the dam is disproportionately the methylmercury-rich bottom waters. A lot of data from Quebec over the past 40 years has shown very clearly that when you dam a river over the next few years the mercury levels in the fish increase.” ...

The Muskrat Falls study experimentally flooded soils from the future reservoir area, showing a spike in methylmercury concentrations within 72 hours, and a 14-fold increase in methylmercury concentrations within 120 hours, with elevated levels expected to last decades. ...

The study found that human exposure to methylmercury could increase by up to 1,500 per cent because of the Muskrat Falls dam. Locally caught wildlife represents a large fraction of food consumed by Inuit living around Lake Melville, constituting 70 per cent of their future exposure to mercury, according to the study, which noted that country foods are at the heart of Inuit health, well-being and culture.

Those country foods carry significant nutritional benefits, according to researchers. On days that country food is consumed Inuit diets have significantly less fat, carbohydrates and sugar and more protein and essential micronutrients such as vitamins, riboflavin and iron.

https://thenarwhal.ca/mercury-rising-muskrat-falls-dam-threatens-inuit-w...