KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – National groups are reacting to the announcement made by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball releasing the terms of reference for the inquiry into the “boondoggle” that is the Muskrat Falls project.
The groups support the call from Labrador Land Protectors and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador that the project be suspended until a full inquiry occurs, looking at many aspects of the project including the lack of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, the economics of the project, and the threat to Indigenous peoples of Labrador.
“More than answers, I think the objective here needs to be stopping the damage. The Muskrat Falls project needs to be stopped while the inquiry is under way, and the terms of reference do not specifically address risks to the environment and safety downstream. It also does not require the Commissioner to explore whether or not the rights of Indigenous peoples have been violated,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director with the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “We encourage the Commissioner, as a first step to consider the true costs of shut down versus continuing with this dangerous and unneeded project.”
“For the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, living downstream from this mega hydro project is putting their lives, livelihood and culture at risk,” says Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “There are real concerns with the safety of this dam, and the threat of methylmercury poisoning for all generations to come. The Methylmercury Agreement from last fall by the Premier and leaders of the three Indigenous communities must be honoured, but the project must be put on hold in order for that to happen.”
The Methylmercury Agreement announced Oct 26, 2016, brought these leaders together due to heightened tensions with three Indigenous people on hunger strike and about 50 people storming the gate at the entrance to the project, occupying the building where workers ate and slept. The verbal agreement came out of overnight negotiations and resulted in consensus to lower water levels to allow for clearing of vegetation (to eliminate the threat of methylmercury poisoning) and the formation of an Independent Expert Advisory Committee (which has been slow to get off the ground).
“If you look to the recent review for Site C in B.C., the project was compared to alternatives like renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, because of Nalcor’s exemption from review by the Public Utilities Board, it was never required to do so for Muskrat Falls. The Newfoundland and Labrador government needs to seize this opportunity, not just to identify past mistakes, but to provide a cheaper and more equitable energy vision the province and our region,” says Fitzgerald.
Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer, Council of Canadians
Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation
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