REGINA – Saskatchewan’s Opposition is asking why taxpayers are on the hook for U.S. lobbyists organizing meetings to promote carbon capture and storage.
U.S. department of justice documents show Saskatchewan paid the firm Nelson Mullins $1.79 million for its efforts to arrange meetings and produce work items on behalf of the province with the United States government between January 2013 and April 2015.
29 of those meetings, or 75 per cent, were about carbon capture, including all five meetings in 2015.
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SaskPower’s $1.5-billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility at Boundary Dam has been plagued with mechanical issues, resulting in poor performance and the plant being shut down more than half the time.
The NDP have also been critical of more than $400,000 in travel bills racked by SaskPower executive Mike Monea while promoting CCS technology around the world.
“The worst part of this, without question, is how offensive I believe this is to Saskatchewan people who are footing the bill for this project … the huge lobbying effort that’s being made and all this travel to go around the world,” said NDP leader Cam Broten.
Through the lobby firm, meetings were arranged with house committees, congressmen and senators, including Joe Manchin, who is now slamming the project, calling it a failure.
Documents show Premier Brad Wall’s March 2014 meeting with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials to promote carbon capture and storage was organized by paid lobbyists. Premier Brad Wall Facebook page
Documents show Premier Brad Wall’s March 2014 meeting with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials to promote carbon capture and storage was organized by paid lobbyists.
Premier Brad Wall Facebook page
The lobby firm was also responsible for organizing Premier Brad Wall’s speech to the Coal Technology Symposium in 2014, documents show.
Despite the project’s flaws so far, Bill Boyd, the minister responsible for SaskPower, says the province is still painting an accurate picture of the CCS unit to the rest of the world.
“There was always the view that, yes there has been problems associated with it, yes there’s been equipment failures … but (SaskPower) felt confident they could correct any problems associated with it.”
READ MORE: Questions surround Sask. spending on U.S. lobbying (Sep. 2014)
It’s not uncommon to hire a lobby firm to make connections south of the border. Other provinces have staffed their own offices in Washington.
At the time, political analysts said Saskatchewan might be at a disadvantage without one.