1. Province asks UARB to reject NSP rate increase proposal
“The province is urging the Utility and Review Board (UARB) to reject a settlement that would raise power rates by an average of at least 14% over the next two years,” reports Jennifer Henderson.
Henderson writes that the province argues the increase is not in the interest of ratepayers, and then she lays out some of the arguments they are making, including this one, related to storms:
The province rejected a three-year temporary provision that would permit the power company to recover from consumers the annual cost of major storms above a threshold of $10.4 million. Although Fiona wouldn’t qualify because it took place in 2022, its estimated cost to Nova Scotia Power was $48 million. If similar storms happen over the next three years, the company will be entitled to recover costs above the threshold.
The province argues this mechanism gives the power company no incentive to spend more money trimming trees associated with most power outages or taking proactive measures to harden the grid.
2. Joan Baxter reads the EverWind Fuels 1000-page environmental assessment, so you don’t have to
“On Dec. 9, EverWind submitted 951 pages separated into 11 separate documents to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) for environmental assessment of phase one of the project,” Joan Baxter reports. In her latest, she looks at the assessment, and finds many unanswered questions.
First, about the project:
EverWind says the project’s first phase will consist of a 300-megawatt (MW) hydrogen plant, a production plant that can produce 600 tonnes of ammonia per day, a transmission interconnection line to bring energy to the plants, and a marine pipeline to carry liquid ammonia to shipping vessels.
And then, to some of those questions:
For all its long-windedness, the EverWind EA submission for phase one of its Point Tupper project doesn’t clearly define what phase one actually is.
The EA registration document offers this cryptic statement about the project time frame:
“EverWind expects to reach financial close on the first part of the Project in 2023, representing green hydrogen produced by Certified Green grid-power, which is critical to ensure this billion-dollar Project is fully developed and construction commences.”
Nor does the EA submission say how much green energy it will need to produce the “certified green” hydrogen and ammonia, and where all that energy will come from.
My favourite bit from the story:
In the EA documents, EverWind describes itself as a “leader in producing green hydrogen and ammonia,” although the company was just created in February 2022 and definitely hasn’t produced any hydrogen or ammonia yet. The EverWind Fuels website shows the Nova Scotia project is its only one.
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Zane Woodford reports on yesterday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting where Chief Dan Kinsella asked for a 6.8% budget increase. Woodford writes:
That’s an increase of $6.07 million over the current year’s budget of $89.195 million. It’s also more than the budget target provided to police by the city’s finance department, $94.636 million…
Kinsella told the board he wants to hire five new employees — three sworn officers and two civilians. Those are a recruitment sergeant; an Emergency Response Team and K9 sergeant; a hate crimes sergeant; a police psychologist; and an occupational health nurse.
To be clear, the roles of the psychologist and occupational health nurse would be to work with police officers.
Negative public sentiment toward police is taking a toll on officers, Kinsella told the board on Wednesday, along with the trauma of the job. That’s why he wants to hire a psychologist.
I am curious about this. Many organizations provide their employees with access to employee assistance services, including the services of therapists. (Former federal finance minister Bill Morneau was in this business, and his company was a leader in driving down compensation for its service providers — but I digress.)
How many organizations the size of HRP have their own psychologist on staff to serve the needs of employees? Does the negative public sentiment towards officers affect them more than, say, what retail and fast-food employees experience?
Also, in what surely is a giant “fuck you” to the board, this request for more staff comes before the police human resources report the board requested last year is complete. Last year the police wanted to hire more staff, and the board said come back with a human resources report. That report is not ready yet, but the police come back asking for more staff anyway.
Zane Woodford reports that Halifax’s career firefighters and the municipality have come to terms on a new collective agreement.
Brendan Meagher, president of the union, told the Examiner in an email the new contract is retroactive to June 2021. It expires at the end of May 2025.
“The new deal sees us continue with straight time overtime for Operational Firefighters. We hope this will not stall future hirings, our members have worked excessive overtime in the last few years due to converting Fall River and Sheet Harbour to 24 / 7 / 365 staffing ( from the previous 10.5 hours Monday to Friday coverage model ) and freezing hiring for 18 months during the pandemic,” Meagher wrote.
The union gave a bit on money in hopes of getting more on staffing.
5. Auditor general’s concerns about industrial lands
Halifax needs hundreds of acres of industrial lands to meet demand, but most current plans are very vague, municipal auditor-general Evangeline Colman-Sadd says. Zane Woodford reports on the release of the latest report from Colman-Sadd’s office, “Corporate Real Estate Development and Sale of Industrial Lands, Land and Building Acquisition and Disposal Audit.”
From the story:
The audit noted a consultant told HRM in 2020 that it only has enough supply of industrial land to meet demand until 2024.
“The consultant forecast the municipality’s future demand for industrial lands to 2039 and found the municipality needs a minimum of 510 net acres of additional urban industrial lands suitable for development to meet this demand,” the auditors wrote.
“As of November 2022, HRM’s website has nine municipally-owned industrial land lots for sale, totalling 46 acres. Most of these lots already have interested purchasers.”
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6. Sable Island horse skulls
Suzanne Rent has a fascinating story on two doctoral students from Saint Mary’s University who normally spend their time studying right whale conservation, but who took a months-long detour into measuring hundreds of skulls from Sable Island horses:
Katharyn Chadwick and Richard Orton’s PhD work focuses on different aspects of right whale conservation. They both work with Saint Mary’s Frasier Lab, which has a longstanding relationship with the Sable Island Institute and Zoe Lucas, president of the institute who has spent much of her life studying many aspects of the island, including the horses. Over the years, the Frasier Lab did some genetics work on the Sable Island horses.
“It just came up in conversation that Zoe had this amazing, unique collection of horse skulls she had been collecting since the 80s,” Chadwick said.
741 horse skulls, to be exact. Chadwick and Orton have been measuring the skulls, assessing their quality, determining their sex, and entering their findings into a database, in hopes that researchers can use the data to understand the horses better.
Orton said part of the reason they chose the measurements they did is because they’re compatible to the stories of other breeds of horses elsewhere.
“One question that could be asked, if not by us, but by someone else, is to take the measurements that we collected and make comparisons to other populations, other museums collections on clydesdales or thoroughbreds and try to understand if there are signals from those breeds that still show in the Sable Island populations.”
Chadwick said while Lucas knows the history of some of the skulls, when the horses were born and when they died, the history of many is unknown.
7. Heating Assistance Rebate Program
The province is putting more money into the Heating Assistance Rebate Program, and expanding its eligibility, Tim Bousquet reports:
An additional one-time increase of $100 million is being dedicated to the program. And the maximum payment to eligible households is increasing from the present $200 to $1,000.
Additionally, the eligibility threshold is being raised from the current $44,000 household income to $85,000 household income. The current individual category is being eliminated, so single people living alone are a household. And all eligible will receive the entire $1,000 with no scaling.
TV or great altar? Motel of the Mysteries takes a fun look back at the present
Last week I wrote about colonialism and archaeology, specifically in relationship to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. I got going on this after listening to an episode of the History Extra podcast, featuring professor Christina Riggs. I want to carry that on a bit by looking at a clever little book poking fun of the 1970’s Tutankhamun craze: Motel of the Mysteries, by David Macaulay.
You may know Macaulay from his non-fiction kids’ books filled with finely detailed drawings. Books like Castle, Cathedral, and Pyramid. (Macaulay’s books, borrowed from the library, were a staple around our house when the kids were little.)
But in 1979, Macaulay decided to have a little fun. Motel of the Mysteries is set in the far future, and looks back on the discovery in 4022 of a remarkable funerary complex with artifacts from the lost civilization of Usa. The amateur archaeologist who makes the find is called Howard Carson (a clear nod to Howard Carter), and has “accomplished nothing of interest” in his life to this point.
Interestingly, he does have a subscription to National Geographic — apparently not everything from the old civilization has been completely lost. Cultures rise and fall, but the Geographic persists for millennia.
The book is set up like a museum catalogue of an exhibition. It opens with an overview of what’s known about Usa and its sudden collapse. We learn that the landscape was criss-crossed with “a complex network of gray and black stripes… Because the various patterns can only be fully appreciated from the air… [it is believed] the stripes were planned either as landing strips for extraterrestrial craft or as coded messages from the inhabitants of the continent to their many powerful gods.”
The funerary complex has a sign bearing the name Toot ‘n’ C’mon, another obvious nod.
It is what we would identify as a motel. In one room, behind a “Do not disturb sign” an obvious indication this was a tomb” there is a scene we would recognize as one skeleton in the bed, who died while boozing it up and watching TV, and another in the bathtub.
The archaeologists of the future find a very different scene though.
The room with the bed is “the outer chamber” and the TV and furniture on which it is placed are “the great altar.”
From the book:
Perhaps the single most important article in the chamber was the ICE. This container, whose function evolved from the Canopic jars of earliest times, was designed to preserve, at least symbolically, the major internal organs of the deceased for eternity. The Yanks, who revered long and complex descriptions, called the container an Internal Component Enclosure.
The whole thing is an extended one-note joke, but it’s a good one. And it’s made better by the small details. Take the images at the top of this piece for instance. The drawing, featuring Carson’s assistant wearing “the Sacred Collar and matching Headband” is a direct reference to archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann’s wife, Sophie, who wore the jewels known as Priam’s Treasure during the excavation of the city Schliemann believed to be ancient Troy. At the back of the book, there is a section detailing the items available in the gift shop: A Tote ‘n’ C’mon tote bag, coffee cups shaped like the Sacred Urn (toilet), and a belt with a “Do not disturb” buckle are among the items.
Gachman learned about the book as an elementary student:
It was read to us by a teacher who was definitely rebelling against the Texas public school system’s required reading list. Instead of launching me into a downward existential spiral, the idea of being wrong about history, whether it be the symbolism of the pyramids or the color of triceratops, thrilled me. That book and that thought haunted me throughout my 20s and 30s.
Gachman tracks down Macaulay, who tells her it was his easiest book, because he was “playing the whole time.” He also says he’s surprised by the number of people who are still attached to it:
“I expected it to disappear long ago given how much work I didn’t put into it,” Macaulay told me recently. “Perhaps it will be unearthed at some future time by a real archaeologist. Now wouldn’t that be fun? Would they know to laugh?”
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
The Australian dingo is an early offshoot of modern breed dogs (Thursday, 2pm, Theatre B, Tupper Building) — seminar by Matt Field from James Cook University, Australia
In the harbour
Ship info coming later.
- I’m done listening to all the Black Sabbath albums in order. Don’t need to hear any more versions of “Iron Man” for a while.
- Haven’t decided yet who the next listen-through is going to be.
- Also, the other night I woke up with this thought in my head: “Why do people like Billy Joel?” I don’t know what was going on in my dreams, but why do people like Billy Joel?