ST. JOHN’S, N.L. _ The Newfoundland and Labrador government is moving ahead with an official inquiry into the troubled Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, Premier Dwight Ball announced Thursday following repeated calls for a probe into its cost over-runs and delays.
Premier Dwight Ball announced the inquiry at a Liberal party fundraising dinner Thursday night, saying a full inquiry is needed because a simple audit would not yield enough information as to why the project became so delayed.
Ball said the government is finalizing the terms of reference and other details, including which judge will head the inquiry.
“This fall, an inquiry into Muskrat Falls will be officially called,” Ball told the gathering at the St. John’s Convention Centre.
He said an inquiry is the best way to answer many questions people have about the soaring costs of the $12.7-billion hydroelectric project, which isn’t expected to generate power until 2020 at the earliest.
The cost is about $5 billion higher than when the former Progressive Conservative government approved Muskrat Falls five years ago.
The Nalcor Energy-owned project will also provide energy to Nova Scotia through the underwater Maritime Link.
Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall took over as head of the Crown corporation last year after the governing Liberals criticized oversight, saying at the time the megaproject was a colossal mistake.
Earlier this year, Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady were told by Marshall and Auditor General Terry Paddon that an inquiry would cause project delays and add unnecessary costs.
The megaproject has been beset by protests in Labrador and St. John’s over environmental concerns.
Nova Scotia Power also announced recently that customers will get some money back over the next three years as a result of the delays in completing the generating station.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board gave NSP Maritime Link Inc., a subsidiary of Emera Inc., approval to charge Nova Scotia Power and its customers for costs related to the construction of the Maritime Link.
The link is expected to be complete by the end of this year, on time and on budget.