Newfoundland and Labrador will proceed with Muskrat Falls: premier

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The government of Newfoundland and Labrador says it will proceed with development of the multibillion-dollar Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale, speaking at the provincial legislature late Monday in St. John’s, said the decision marks a significant day in the province’s history.

“For the first time in a very long time, the legitimate aspirations of the people of this province have been heard, considered and acknowledged as important,” Dunderdale told a crowd in the legislature’s lobby.

“We are ready to be national leaders in energy generation.”

The development is a joint venture between Newfoundland Crown corporation Nalcor Energy and Nova Scotia private utility company Emera (TSX:EMA).

It would involve the construction of a dam and power station in Labrador, transmission lines on the island of Newfoundland and a 180-kilometre subsea link that would transmit electricity from southwestern Newfoundland to Cape Breton.

It is expected to begin generating power in 2017 and is estimated to cost between $7.5 billion and $7.7 billion.

Opponents say Dunderdale has not proven the case for Muskrat Falls, accusing her of fast-tracking a project without legislative committee scrutiny or debate that could burden future generations if it soars over budget.

She has countered the criticism by releasing a series of government-commissioned reports in recent weeks. They conclude the project is a viable, clean source of renewable energy that would wean the province off fossil fuels.

Dunderdale has refused further review by the province’s Public Utilities Board since it declined to endorse Muskrat Falls last spring, citing a lack of updated information.

Muskrat Falls would be capable of generating up to 824 megawatts of electricity, 170 megawatts of which would go to Nova Scotia annually for 35 years. That would serve about 10 per cent of that province’s power needs.

Muskrat Falls got a boost last month when Ottawa offered a federal loan guarantee for the project that would cut borrowing costs by about $1 billion.