Muskrat Falls

10 posts / 0 new
Last post
Muskrat Falls

Muskrat Falls: 'Everything is Leaking'

swallow swallow's picture

There are some great updates on Muskrat Falls in an existing thread in the indigenous forum. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..time for it's own thread i think as well. txs ndpp!

Protesters break into Muskrat Falls site, more form blockade outside

Protesters broke into the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site in Labrador and formed a blockade around it, Nalcor Energy confirmed Saturday.

Nalcor spokeswoman Karen O'Neill said protesters and vehicles entered the work site near Happy Valley-Goose Bay Saturday afternoon, and a blockade of around 150 people formed outside the main entrance.

Mayor of Cartwright Dwight Lethbridge said demonstrators gained access to the site by cutting a chain off one of the gates. Lethbridge said he drove a "truckload" of people onto the site, but some protesters asked to be taken back as the situation grew "tense."

"There was the threat of RCMP coming to arrest people and there was a helicopter flying very low over our heads," he said. "It was a heart-pounding kind of moment."

Lethbridge described the demonstration as "extremely peaceful." Police were concerned that "things might escalate" between protesters and workers on the site, he said in an interview, but that has not been the case....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Court order to arrest reporter covering Muskrat Falls is unacceptable

An order has been issued by a Newfoundland court, at the request of the Crown corporation Nalcor, to arrest 21 land protectors peacefully occupying the Muskrat Falls site. The order also directs the RCMP to arrest journalist Justin Brake of the Independent. On both counts, this is intolerable.

By ordering the arrest of a working journalist, the court has launched a frontal assault on freedom of the press in this country. This unprecedented order requires an immediate and categorical denunciation from all media outlets.

Justin Brake is the editor of the Independent in Newfoundland. Founded in 2003 as a print publication, the Independent now publishes local news, opinion, letters and feature content for a Newfoundland and Labrador audience on its website. In the context of massive cuts to legacy media outlets, the Independent is no “alternative” to mainstream outlets. Rather, it is often the only outlet to send journalists to cover events, like the Muskrat Falls occupation, which the legacy media lack the resources to cover....


Court order issued for arrest of land protectors, journalist


“When the court order was served I was quite shocked to see my name on there,” said Brake when reached by phone at the Muskrat Falls site. “I couldn’t have imagined that in 2016 a crown energy corporation would come down so heavy-handed as to infringe on the constitutionally protected right of freedom of the press.

“On Saturday there was a rally at the main gate for the Muskrat Falls project, and all of the sudden the bolt was cut on the front gate and about sixty people entered. I knew at that moment without hesitation that it was a story that needed to be told, whatever was about to unfold. People in Labrador have been resisting this project increasingly in recent weeks and months and up to that point the Muskrat Falls narrative as presented by media had largely omitted the human rights and Indigenous rights story that was unfolding. With members of all three Indigenous groups as well as settler Labradorians storming through the gates I knew this was a historical moment in Labrador’s history, and regardless of whether or not Nalcor wanted that story to be told I had an obligation as a journalist to follow them and tell that story.

“In the four days that I was embedded with the land protectors at the Muskrat Falls camp I’ve been able to tell a part of the story that is crucial to any full understanding of the impact that Muskrat Falls will have on the people of our province.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..some recent history.

March 2012

Lower Churchill project gets environmental green light


'Inadequate' analysis

Last summer, the joint federal-provincial environmental review panel called Nalcor Energy's analysis of the project "inadequate," while also asking for more information from the Crown-owned company.

The review panel recommended a new, independent analysis based on economic, energy and environmental considerations.

That new analysis recommended by the panel would take into consideration domestic energy demand projections, as well as alternate energy sources, such as using offshore gas as a fuel for the Holyrood thermal generating facility.

But the two levels of government rejected that panel recommendation.

April 2012

Quebec Innu want to stop Muskrat Falls hydro

Quebec Innu are asking the Federal Court to reverse approval given by the federal government for the construction of new hydroelectric dams on the Lower Churchill River in Labrador.

The group says the federal government largely ignored the August 2011 advice of a review panel.

"A federal-provincial review panel concluded, after an environmental assessment that the project proposed by Nalcor Energy would have several significant adverse environmental effects on the aquatic and terrestrial environments, culture and heritage," said a news release from the Innu of Ekuanitshit.

According to the panel, "the project would be unlikely to deliver benefits to aboriginal communities in Quebec and the project’s impact on their current use of land and resources for traditional purposes would be adverse."

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..great news. my bold.

Government, Indigenous leaders agree on changes to Muskrat Falls project

A deal has been reached between the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the governments of Labrador’s three Indigenous groups over the contentious Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. The deal follows all day negotiations with premier Dwight Ball at the provincial legislature in St. John’s.

Described by all parties as “progress” in a press conference held after midnight at the provincial legislature, and as “new and significant commitments” in a statement, the deal commits the government to change elements of the planned project to mitigate risks to human health.

Most significantly, an “Independent Expert Advisory Committee” will be established, composed of representatives of the Innu Nation, Nunatsiavut Government, the NunatuKavut Community Council, and federal, provincial, and municipal governments.

“It is a good day,” exclaimed Todd Russell, president of NunatuKavut Community Council. “It is a good morning, and this done right will certainly make Muskrat right.”

“The decisions that will be made going forward, will not be at the whim of government. They will be made by science, and will incorporate the traditional knowledge of our people. This is a huge step forward.”


I'd heard they'd come to an agreement. Good news indeed. Why is it so hard for Nalcor (and, well, the entire energy industry) to understand that meaningful consultation means a seat at the table, real participation in the conversation.


Premier Ball defended his decision to carry on with Muskrat Falls despite calling it  “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.”

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.



In 2018, former premier Danny Williams testified into the public inquiry into Muskrat Falls. The arrogance that is typical of those who engage into boosterism of those who push these megaprojects without doing a serious examination of the financial and financial risks comes through loudly. As a result of this the costs doubled to $12.7 billion, Newfoundland electricity bills for consumers are expected to climb exponentially and the region around Muskrat Falls has been poisoned by methylmercury, identified as one of the world's ten most toxic substances. There is also the question of whether some of the documents that might have criticized the project have 'disappeared'.

Former premier Danny Williams told the Muskrat Falls inquiry Tuesday he remained confident in his government’s detailed assessment of the hydro megaproject’s potential risks, even as the judge hearing the inquiry said they haven’t seen evidence that a thorough review was undertaken. ...

Justice Richard LeBlanc, who is leading the inquiry, said Tuesday that for a costly government endeavour like Muskrat Falls, he expected to see documentation of input from other departments like finance, natural resources and the treasury board looking at potential financial impacts on Newfoundland and Labrador. ...

LeBlanc said inquiry staff have reviewed documents up until November 2010, a month before Williams retired from politics, and they have not yet found evidence of detailed internal government scrutiny. ...

Williams believes the project was properly assessed over the course of the eight years before it was sanctioned by Kathy Dunderdale’s government in 2012, but couldn’t speak to who in exactly in government would have carried out such analyses.

He said the reviews may not have been done by the province’s finance department specifically, but declared his trust in the integrity of his government’s former officials, and he believes the paper trail is out there. ...

Williams was also questioned by lawyer Caitlin Urquhart, representing the Labrador Land Protectors and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, about consideration of potential environmental impacts like methylmercury poisoning downstream from the site – fears that nearby communities still consider unresolved.

Williams said he believes the project is clean and sustainable, and he’s confident that officials who “know more about it than I do” appropriately assessed the complex environmental concerns.

He also took questions from the Concerned Citizens Coalition counsel Geoff Budden, representing some of Muskrat Falls’ most outspoken critics, about whether the former premier has taken critiques of the project seriously.

Williams said he thinks constructive criticism is a good thing but remained adamant that he has a right to push back against his critics in a “democratic society.”

“I’ve got to try and defend what I’ve done,” said Williams.


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.