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Not-so-clean power


It’s both confusing and more than a little disturbing.

Faced with concerns that leaving trees and soil in the 41-square-kilometre Muskrat Falls could lead to methylmercury contamination in fish and other fish sources, the provincial government has agreed with a Nalcor Energy plan to increase monitoring for the toxic metal and handle any contamination concerns with compensation after the fact.

The provincial government is anything but a disinterested regulator in this situation. It is the ultimate owner of a power project that is already critically over-budget and behind schedule, and the remedial work involved work involved in trying to prevent the expected methylmercury pollution could potentially add to the delay, and would certainly add significant cost to the project.

You could argue that the province is in a significant conflict of interest.

It’s dressed up differently in the province’s news release, where Environment and Conservation Minister Perry Trimper is quoted as saying, “Should any consumption advisories be issued as a result of the flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir, I find it necessary that Nalcor offer appropriate compensation for that loss.”

He did not say, however, that he thought the energy firm should be required to make every effort to ensure the contamination didn’t happen in the first place.

Nalcor’s approach is simple: “Should adverse human health effects be predicted in relation to the consumption of fish and other country food items (in either baseline or operations phases), such effects would be managed primarily through consumption advisories.” That’s regardless of the changes for existing residents and their lifestyles.

Ironically, neither federal nor provincial government — nor Nalcor — actually did the work that pointed out methylmercury was a serious concern. Instead, researchers from Memorial University, Harvard and the University of Manitoba, along with the Nunatsiavut government did the work, as MUN research professor Trevor Bell described it in the MUN Gazette in April: “This is the study that Nalcor Energy should have done as proponent for the Muskrat Falls project and one that both federal and provincial governments should have made them do, if they had heeded the recommendations of the project’s Environmental Assessment Joint Review Panel. For Nunatsiavut, the downstream impacts of the Muskrat Falls project on their people and homeland are potentially too devastating to leave to chance, or to Nalcor’s speculative calculations.”

You can read Bell’s Gazette Op-Ed piece here: http://bit.ly/1qBJHuF

Professor Bell was blunt: “Because of their reliance on fish, seals and other wild foods for their diet, hundreds of Labrador Inuit living on Lake Melville will be exposed to methylmercury above regulatory guidelines.”

Did the province address that? No.

Instead, it’s chosen to punt the problem into the future, at unknown expense and with little concern for the disruption that might be caused to Inuit and other indigenous peoples who depend on fish and seals for their traditional diet.

And this is “clean” power?

 

Faced with concerns that leaving trees and soil in the 41-square-kilometre Muskrat Falls could lead to methylmercury contamination in fish and other fish sources, the provincial government has agreed with a Nalcor Energy plan to increase monitoring for the toxic metal and handle any contamination concerns with compensation after the fact.

The provincial government is anything but a disinterested regulator in this situation. It is the ultimate owner of a power project that is already critically over-budget and behind schedule, and the remedial work involved work involved in trying to prevent the expected methylmercury pollution could potentially add to the delay, and would certainly add significant cost to the project.

You could argue that the province is in a significant conflict of interest.

It’s dressed up differently in the province’s news release, where Environment and Conservation Minister Perry Trimper is quoted as saying, “Should any consumption advisories be issued as a result of the flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir, I find it necessary that Nalcor offer appropriate compensation for that loss.”

He did not say, however, that he thought the energy firm should be required to make every effort to ensure the contamination didn’t happen in the first place.

Nalcor’s approach is simple: “Should adverse human health effects be predicted in relation to the consumption of fish and other country food items (in either baseline or operations phases), such effects would be managed primarily through consumption advisories.” That’s regardless of the changes for existing residents and their lifestyles.

Ironically, neither federal nor provincial government — nor Nalcor — actually did the work that pointed out methylmercury was a serious concern. Instead, researchers from Memorial University, Harvard and the University of Manitoba, along with the Nunatsiavut government did the work, as MUN research professor Trevor Bell described it in the MUN Gazette in April: “This is the study that Nalcor Energy should have done as proponent for the Muskrat Falls project and one that both federal and provincial governments should have made them do, if they had heeded the recommendations of the project’s Environmental Assessment Joint Review Panel. For Nunatsiavut, the downstream impacts of the Muskrat Falls project on their people and homeland are potentially too devastating to leave to chance, or to Nalcor’s speculative calculations.”

You can read Bell’s Gazette Op-Ed piece here: http://bit.ly/1qBJHuF

Professor Bell was blunt: “Because of their reliance on fish, seals and other wild foods for their diet, hundreds of Labrador Inuit living on Lake Melville will be exposed to methylmercury above regulatory guidelines.”

Did the province address that? No.

Instead, it’s chosen to punt the problem into the future, at unknown expense and with little concern for the disruption that might be caused to Inuit and other indigenous peoples who depend on fish and seals for their traditional diet.

And this is “clean” power?

 

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