05/09/2012 03:01 EDT | Updated 07/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia tables bill to ensure review of link to Muskrat Falls hydro project

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's utility regulator would have the authority to review the subsea link of the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project under legislation introduced Wednesday by the provincial government.

Energy Minister Charlie Parker said the proposed bill would ensure that there is an open and transparent review by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board of the $1.2-billion link.

He said draft regulations would be developed in consultation with the board and they would be available for public comment later this spring.

Premier Darrell Dexter committed last week to introducing regulatory changes if necessary, although he said that he didn't believe legislation was needed.

"We could have done it by regulation, but because we wanted to make sure that we provided all the certainty that was required, we decided that if we could do it by way of a bill that would be fine," said Dexter.

He said under the Maritime Link Act, the board would have the power to examine the capital costs of the subsea link portion of the project and the costs of the electricity it would carry.

He said the province intended a broad review that would examine questions "which are normal with any project."

Nova Scotia Power's parent company, Emera (TSX:EMA), has not revealed details yet on how it plans to proceed, but has said it will submit an application for reviewing the link to the board.

It would fund the 180-kilometre link between Cape Ray, N.L., and Lingan, N.S., if the $6.2-billion project in Labrador is sanctioned.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie welcomed the review but said he hoped there could be a way to broaden the board's mandate to review the entire Muskrat Falls project.

"It requires a cost-benefit analysis so Nova Scotians can be assured that this is the lowest cost green energy option available to them," said Baillie.

Liberal energy critic Andrew Younger said he was glad to see the government acknowledge that legislation was needed to ensure a proper review.

"It's very clear in Section 35 of the Public Utilities Act that they (the board) had no power to review this project unless it was brought by Nova Scotia Power," said Younger.