Energy Corporation should follow rules

By the time it was completed, the 232-kilometre-long Mayo-Dawson transmission line cost more than $35 million — $13 million more than it was…

By the time it was completed, the 232-kilometre-long Mayo-Dawson transmission line cost more than $35 million — $13 million more than it was supposed to.

Given that, you might think the Crown-owned Yukon Energy Corporation would be more careful in pursuing a second transmission line to link the Mayo-Dawson line to the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid.

But there is little indication that is the case.

In fact, all evidence suggests the utility is in a headlong rush to build the Carmacks to Pelly Crossing line at any cost.

On Thursday, after looking at the projected costs to build the line, the utility’s board announced it was going ahead with the second project.

The price tag is now $27.8 million, up 39 per cent from an earlier estimate of $20 million reported last March.

The economics are still there to proceed, said chair David Morrison.

But one can be excused for wondering, given the corporation’s history in such things, whether that’s an accurate assessment.

Besides, the corporation had made the decision to proceed long before these cost estimates were assessed.

A call for proposals for project management services closed September 12. So the utility had clearly decided to go ahead some time ago.

Also, the formal go-ahead comes before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has finished its screening report for the project.

Among other things, the board is supposed to “Require that, before projects are undertaken, their environmental and socio-economic effects are considered.”

The utility has, once again, jumped the gun.

And that decision undermines both the board and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, established through the land claim process.

Why have a process that a government or public corporation can anticipate, or ignore at its whim?

The first contract let by the Energy Corp. was a $17.3-million sole-sourced contract to the Northern Tutchone First Nation.

It has no demonstrable experience with power line construction, but it has partnered with a pair of construction companies to do the work.

Still, it’s somewhat troubling given federal auditor general Sheila Fraser’s damning report on the Mayo-Dawson line.

“It is surmised that the desire to get the project done led to improper management practices, such as the over use of sole-source contracts and contracting with contractors who had no demonstrated experience in transmission line construction,” said Fraser’s report.

Costs of the new line are already estimated to be higher than expected.

Established review processes are already being ignored.

And massive sole-sourced contracts are being let.

This suggests the corporation has failed to learn from the errors of the past.

Established rules may slow projects down, but they exist for a reason.

And ratepayers have learned what happens when the Energy Corporation recklessly pursues pet projects. (RM)