NB Power controversy, 2010

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Back in school, I'm doing so much lerainng.

The second deal: Dams and nukes, generating assets only

Under extreme public pressure, and pressure from other provinces notably NL which feared HQ would block their own hydro exports to the US by "interpreting" the OATT tariff or sabotaging the actual transmissions, Graham's government backed down from the offer to sell the extremely valuable and strategic transmission corridors and the public distribution network.

A second deal was framed in which only the hydroelectric dams, Point Lepreau and other generating assets would be sold. NB Power would retain control of legacy assets of little value including fossil generating plants, but would generally get out of the generating business.

The [1] elite New Brunswick Business Council, comprised of presidents, CEOs and chairs of some of the leading New Brunswick corporations, publicized a commentary on the merits of the deal, stating their "deep, personal interest in our province and its future" and opinion that "the proposed agreement is in the best interests of New Brunswick." Possibly because of suspicion and taint of the original proposal, there was little change in the public's mood and no support for this new deal. Instead, the public, aware that a provincial election would place in September 2010 began to [2] yearn for a [participatory democracy].

Practical problems with the new deal were significant including a [3] the premier threatening to sue AECL because of continuing refurbishment delays and with the [4] First Nations hosting the dams and transmission corridors, and no strategy for demand-side management to reduce dependencies on what would now be wholesale-purchased power, nor for NB renewable power to replace what was still required after conservation and demand-side measures, nor for any right of access to power use data for NB residents.

While a comparable strategy of separating generating from the transmission and generating assets had been followed with some success in Ontario, that was with a parallel strategy of time-of-use pricing, demand-side management and extreme conservation incentives that NB simply didn't have.

Social networking

Questions began arising from community based social networking groups

[5] [Why haven't we heard from NB Power execs?] Are they being replaced? Is Graham?]

A very large number of people (over 30,000) participated in such groups, which were generally demanding that competent people who have the understanding and know-how to make their investments work for them and that the infrastructure and rights of way remain in the public's hands.

Costs of the failed deal

The New Brunswick's Liberal government released invoices for the cost of the failed talks to sell NB Power to Hydro-Quebec in June 2010. Conservative opposition members complained that the 270 pages of documents did not show the true costs of the negotiations, which were estimated at close to $30 million and should have included expenses for trips to Quebec and Washington by premier, minister of energy and staff of NB Power as well as costs incurred by government lawyers and civil servants.

Journalists obtained the itemized details under the Right to Information Act which listed $8 million in costs for legal, technical and communications services dating back to April 2009. The detailed package included expense details from professional fees and advertising to airfare and meals. Local media reported costs of $4.82 million for legal and technical services, $2.33 million for communications services and $911,500 for financial services.

According to the documents received by the Canadian Press, the negotiations were code-named "Project Penelope," apparently an arbitrary label given by a Montreal law firm to maintain confidentiality. Efforts to sell the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant and the Coleson Cove power plant by the previous Conservative government were reportedly known as "Project Lighthouse" and "Project Cartwheel."


Broken promises: The broadband precedent

Via those groups, New Brunswickers generally stated that they wanted to maintain public control of their utilities. The broadband issue was often cited as a precedent for not believing in provincial government guarantees: Following the "NB province-wide broadband rollout", 10% of New Brunswickers still don't have the same level of affordable, wired, secure, reliable broadband services that were promised to all of them.

Nor is there any mechanism by which community or First Nations groups, or even private entrepreneurs, can secure access to the rights of way on the public power poles (and also the wires, in the case of powerline networking) to provide data services, let alone combined power and data.

Jurisdiction question: Is this a federal decision?

A jurisdictional question was raised by [6] [Senator Lowell Murray] and the [[[7]]] [Wulustukyieg Traditional Council of Tobic], among others.

Perhaps coincidentally, [8] [(Hydro) Québec was already in trouble over failing to meet their agreements with Northern Cree] .

Hill & Knowlton

The Graham's government has hired [9] [PR firm Hill & Knowlton] to help to present the deal to the public. These strategies totally failed, with dissent from over 60% of New Brunswickers who [10] [know their power, believe in democracy], and are aware that [11] [the rest of the world is watching].

Graham blamed the media for unfair coverage of his government saying they don't put the Conservative opposition under the same scrutiny as his governing Liberals. New Brunswick media has reported that the Liberal plans to sell NB Power contributed to a drop in their popularity in one of the polls.

Despite the public relations failure, H&K continues to work for the NB government.


References

Failed power deal cost taxpayers $8 million Telegraph Journal

N.B. releases detailed invoices for cost of power talks CTV News

[12] [New Brunswick Business Journal] Energy: Panel says N.B. should boost co-operation with neighbours as it looks to curb rising power rates and use of dirty electricity "... Tom Adams, a Toronto-based energy consultant, is calling for the Maritime provinces - and perhaps even northern Maine - to merge their power plant control centres, which balance the needs of electricity users with the output from power plants. The benefits, he contends, would be numerous: the ability to use the cheapest power available in the region, and better use of renewable sources... For instance, if the wind isn't blowing in Nova Scotia, the province could simply import clean wind power from P.E.I. or New Brunswick - and vice versa... Yves Gagnon, a renewable energy expert at the Université de Moncton, previously suggested a single Crown corporation could oversee energy matters in the region. Even Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, a vocal critic of the NB Power deal, has said the deal's collapse will renew the opportunity for co-operation between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in increasing transmission capacity to the northeastern U.S."

[13] [telegraphjournal.com] - Liberal MLAs back new proposal "Hydro-Québec would pay $3.2 billion to acquire hydroelectric dams and the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, but ownership of the system operator and the distribution and transmission lines would remain in New Brunswick."


[14] MAKING STATIC - Save NB Power "Lamrock wouldn't detail what happened in that meeting, ... New Brunswick will retain ownership of its power transmission system in an amended deal with ... would backpedal on the initial plan as part of a political rescue operation. .... Resistance to the Shawn Graham government's proposal to sell NB Power ... "


[15] [The New Brunswick System Operator (NBSO)] "came into existence on October 1, 2004 with the proclamation of the [16] [Electricity Act (NB)]. NBSO is a not-for-profit independent corporation whose primary responsibilities are to ensure the reliability of the electrical system and to facilitate the development and operation of a competitive electricity market in New Brunswick. The NBSO oversees transmission system reliability, access to and use of the transmission grid (the high voltage wires); administers the Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) and the Market Rules.

[17] "New (Irving) NB Power Deal according to the Globe and Mail Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. "... an amended deal with Hydro-Québec that aims to eliminate concerns that Quebec was gaining a stranglehold over power exports to the northeastern United States...." "Meanwhile, a company owned by New Brunswick's powerful Irving family is proposing a regional transmission system in Eastern Canada to foster collaboration across political boundaries. Irving-owned Fort Reliance formed Portage Energy Ltd., which will aim to form partnerships to develop new transmission projects worth between $1-billion and $2-billion."

[18] Writer questions absence of NB Power senior management and staff in current debate. "One would assume that competent individuals hold the executive positions at NB Power... And yet we have heard nothing from these knowledgeable individuals... One must then assume there is a reason for their silence."


[19] Major Changes To Proposed NB Power Hydro-Quebec Deal - News889 "19 Jan 2010 ... retain complete ownership and control of NB Power under the deal. The deal no longer includes NB Power's transmission and distribution systems. ... Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock has said he couldn't vote in ... Premier Shawn Graham's message on the plan has wavered from the start."


[20] "The deal no longer includes NB Power's transmission and distribution systems. "


[21] Liberal minister won't vote for NB Power deal - Worldnews.com "18 Jan 2010 ... The proposed deal to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec has garnered intense ... Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock told CBC News in an... Premier Shawn Graham announced on Monday that RIM will. ... Quebec ministers met with Cree leaders on Monday to discuss the province's ambitious Plan Nord, ..."


[22] timestranscript.com - Graham NB Power campaign like 'big tobacco ... "Graham NB Power campaign like 'big tobacco'. Published Saturday December 12th, 2009. D9. Marie-Claude Blais. Stumble Upon. Stumble Upon. del.icio.us ..."

"The [23] [Hill & Knowlton] factor is an important one in this matter. The Shawn Graham government has hired this P.R. firm from Washington D.C. to convince us, the people of New Brunswick, that the sale of NB Power is a good thing... This firm is no small player; it is one of the world's largest P.R. Firms... it handles public relations for retail giant Wal-Mart. The firm is also known to have control over mass media... the firm had success in marketing the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the American people! ... This is the company who designed the tobacco industry's strategy against scientific evidence linking cigarette smoking and lung cancer."


[24] The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) "28 Nov 2008 ... Grand Chief Matthew Mukash at Cree Mineral Exploration Board Nov. 2008 ... Quebec had reneged on the treaty and we therefore sought our rights and ... was set by the new Agreements between the Crees and Hydro Quebec on ..."

http://www.gcc.ca/newsarticle.php?id=158 "In that year the Government of Quebec announced that it would proceed with the NBR and Great Whale Projects. We saw things otherwise. Quebec had reneged on the treaty and we therefore sought our rights... Development, we concluded, was not in our interest." "Some non-Crees, including developers and government people, take the view that the Paix Des Braves (note: included new Agreements between the Crees and Hydro Quebec on hydroelectric development... as parts of the Paix des Braves) settled all matters relating to the Crees claims over the JBNQA Territory and beyond, including the right to benefit from the natural resources... This is not true, and we will never back off!"


[25] Liberal minister won't vote for NB Power deal - Worldnews.com "18 Jan 2010 ... The proposed deal to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec has garnered intense ... Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock told CBC News in an ... Premier Shawn Graham announced on Monday that RIM will. ... Quebec ministers met with Cree leaders on Monday to discuss the province's ambitious Plan Nord, ..." http://article.wn.com/view/WNATD5E11062D31F7C1B331B0995A29E2E65/


[26] [NB Power Not For Sale] Rabble.ca - Yearning for a participatory democracy in New Brunswick. "Cartoon of Shawn Graham. Linked Updates. Dec 17 - Graham and Keir at odds ( priceless!) Dec 15- How the sale of NB Power really affects residential customers (Roy ... Minister Kelly Lamrock has even gone so far as launching a program ... Press The Quebec government says it has no plans to renegotiate a deal to..." "...the public demands involvement in each of the steps of identifying policy issues, conceptualizing a response, designing the policy and ensuring its implementation... We all have a right to participate in our governance, and this participation is not encapsulated on Election Day." Story can be found at: [27] [Rabble.ca]