Monday, 8 May 2017

TIME FOR ENGINEERS' ASSOCIATION TO BE HELD TO ACCOUNT ON MUSKRAT

First, I have to relate a little story which will provide some additional context to the purpose of this item. 

Back in October 2014, during the visit of Dr. Stig Bernander who came to the province to conduct field work along the Lower Churchill River, I woke up one morning to find the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland (APEGN) in pursuit of the Professor. The email read that APEGN was trying to contact Dr. Bernander so that the association could cite him for having used “P. Eng.” – the designation which is for the proprietary use of APEGN.

Evidently, APEGN had received a complaint from one of its members - following an advertisement I had posted in the Telegram. The advertisement was placed for the sole purpose of inviting the public to the Bernander Lecture scheduled for presentation at the LSPU Hall. The complaining engineer noted that Bernander had not registered with APEGN and was therefore unqualified to use the engineering designation.

Admittedly, I thought the email peculiar. After all, the octogenarian Professor had come here, pro bono, in response to an important public matter, the North Spur. I thought it rather ungracious – to say the least – that he should be tracked down so that a fee could be collected.

Of course, Dr. Bernander had not come to NL to work. He was on a pro bono – which means unpaid - mission of some considerable importance. He had accepted an invitation from a local group, which included this scribe, to discuss the risk factors of a particular clay, called “quick clay”, which under certain circumstances can reform as a liquid, in which state it can induce a landslide. The North Spur, which forms a major part of the dam at Muskrat contains this material.

It should be noted that engineers studying the geotechnical side of their discipline were, long ago, reading his research at Memorial and in Universities throughout the world – Bernander having conducted ground breaking research in the field of soil mechanics. Dr. Bernander was an expert on quick clay having developed new methodologies to assess landslide risk when the “sensitive” clay is present. It was the subject of his PhD thesis.   

I quickly wrote back APEGN, acknowledged their role as gatekeepers - to what I has assumed was all about professional standards – and explained that if anyone should be cited by the Association it would have to be me – the Professor having played no role in placing the advertisement. 

Of course, I hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. I understood what had inspired this complaint and was shocked that the Association had taken the issue up.However I was pleased when Dr. Bernander, having performed a yeoman's public service, left here none the wiser that I had gotten APEGN’s knickers in a knot.

Now, I cite this little – and irksome story – for a couple of reasons. Dr. Bernander's personal history marks a lifetime of dedication to the pursuit of the highest engineering standards. His reasons for coming to the province were a matter of public record – then - and the occasion ought to have been used to honor the man, not to chase him down for either reprimand or a fee.

Though I have not earned possession of the engineer’s iron ring, I can’t help but think APEGN failed to rise to the occasion more wisely. And it has missed several opportunities since.

Several professional engineers have played an enormous part in the Muskrat Falls related writings on this Blog. They afforded me the opportunity to explain highly technical issues which, otherwise, would have been deficient. Others like James L. Gordon, and some using pseudonyms, have contributed their own works.

All the while, APEGN, the professional association which represents all NL engineers have stayed in hiding. The vocal ones have made contributions here, despite obvious limitations, perhaps hoping that APEGN might eventually rise above pettiness, display some courage – and exhibit the purpose of its founding -  the maintenance and pursuit of professional standards.  

Following Bernander’s lecture, wouldn’t it have been reasonable to hear from APEGN, possibly arranging an academic forum on quick clay, perhaps even inviting Dr. Bernander back to participate? But it wasn’t forthcoming.

In July 2015, when I posted the widely read Blog entitled: ENGINEERS BREAK SILENCE ON PROBLEMS AT MUSKRAT FALLS  - the Piece was written with the assistance of several highly qualified and informed engineers - who had worked on the project. They described a plethora of problems – including management and quality control issues. Intervention by APEGN, then, might have helped reduce the continued unravelling of the project.

A 2016 Piece entitled “ENGINEER’S “OPEN LETTER” TELLS PREMIER GET ADVICE, RESET MUSKRAT, written following release of the EY Interim Report, chronicled a litany of problems on the project. It, too, brought not a word from APEGN.   


The Piece entitled MUSKRAT FALLS ESTIMATES A COMPLETE FALSIFICATION, SAYS ENGINEER published January 30, 2017 and one entitled “ALLEGATIONS OF PHONY COST ESTIMATES” published a week later, recorded an engineer who described, at length, how the project estimates had been falsified. He stated, among other things: “I could not put up with falsifying information anymore” 

The allegations are very serious. And they have come not from a layman, but from one who wears the “iron ring”. Still – notwithstanding possibly the worst allegations ever heard about Muskrat – and there have been some doozies - not a word of concern or a plan to investigate was ever uttered by APEGN.

Just last week, commenting upon the aDB Engineering report into the causes of a major formworks collapse in the area of the powerhouse - which occurred on 29th May, 2016 – James L. Gordon a renowned Canadian engineer, with significant industry and academic credentials, wrote:

 “…an engineer looking at the towers would immediately observe the errors in fabrication, installation and deterioration due to weathering. This indicates that either no engineers inspected the structure, an almost impossible conclusion, or, more likely, they were totally inexperienced to such an extent that their competence to practice engineering in Newfoundland should be questioned!”

But, again, from APEGN there is not a word.

APEGN hides behind the requirement that it will investigate if one of its membership lodges a formal complaint against another member. Yet, its leadership knows full well that such a step will lead to the complainant getting “black-balled” by their employer – especially if it happens to be Nalcor.

The system allows the APEGN leadership to remain flat-footed. It seems none of them can break free from the stranglehold of commerciality and self-interest notwithstanding the Code of Ethics to which every engineer is sworn.

An engineering debacle continues to unfold at Muskrat Falls.

A badly burned public has a right to expect that institutions will hold their own members to account.

That any such utterance might have put them off-side with some of the folks at Nalcor, which has worked hard on the current environment of studied silence and of intimidation towards those who would dare disclose the ugly truth about the Muskrat Falls project, could have been seen as a commitment to professionalism, to excellence.

But, as it stands, APEGN remains aloof - professional standards be damned.

They do many of their members a great disservice just as they ignore what they might learn - including courage - from professionals like Dr. Stig Bernander, James L. Gordon and other engineers who have tried to be heard.

28 comments:

  1. APEGN main function as the work of this blog indicates, is not defending the integrity of the profession, it is to maintain the status quo in feudal NL. As this blog indicates it leads to frustration and bewilderment among those that expect that professional integrity is foremost for the organization.

    Exposing the hypocrisy as this piece does is a good start. Don't however expect that logic, decency or concern for competence of members will sway this group captured by the feudal oligarchs. The ties to the deeper rot and corruption that characterizes MF engineering must be exposed and accountability demanded.

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    1. APEGN is just another self regulating professional group which seemingly have lost the "Sons of Martha" ethic. They have replaced its service to mankind intent with profit motivation as the raison d'être. Their masters, Owners, and the like hire them to similar values, and we succumb at the wheel.

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  2. Sad isn't it...Maybe engineers should all be paid pro bono until they see the light of day...ITS MY CHILDRENS MONEY YOU ARE WASTING ..Let them prove their worth and then receive a pay cheque....

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  3. A couple of corrections. The association is now known by the name PEGNL (Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador).

    Second, any individual or organization can file a complaint with PEGNL on actions of its members. It is not limited to association members. PEGNL can even initiate investigations on their own if desired without an external complaint.

    PEGNL's multi-step process for dealing with complaints for better or worse is confidential. PEGNL does not publically release information on complaints until the final outcome and then only if disciplinary action is taken. It is possible that MF complaints may have already been filled with them and they are working their way through their process, however no one outside those directly involved and PEGNL would know.

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  4. The current chair elect of PEGNL is Gerard Dunphy. His linkedin profile states "October 2010 – Present (6 years 8 months)
    Accountable for the successful execution of the annual capital and operating project programs for Nalcor's non-regulated generating assets." PEGNL also has three ministerial appointees. So, the top brass of PEGNL apparantly works for Nalcor.

    If PEGNL was to fullfill its stated role in protecting the public interest: "PEGNL regulates the practice of engineering and geoscience in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the public interest. All professional members and permit holders are expected to uphold the Act, Regulations and Code of Ethics, and to practice in a manner that protects the public interest." then it needs to avoid apparent conflicts of interest.

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  5. The public has no real control. We have elected the PC and Liberals on and off since confederation and there is virtually no difference between them. Our leaders are pre-selected before the election. The election system favours the two party system. The Auditor General has a staff of 30 people and is too small to take on a real investigation on anything large like Muskrat Falls. The citizen's rep cannot protect whistle blowers from retaliation and suggests they have an exit plan like imminent retirement. Corporate media such as the CBC and VOCM suppress information when asked and have disallowed comments on their web sites. PEGNL's board is full of Nalcor and Government management. A few powerful people rule this place.

    One of the most important aspects of this blog is that it remains one of the few places that the public can be red pilled. This is a matrix reference: Knowledge, freedom and the sometimes painful truth of reality (red pill) Falsehood, security and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill)

    I am convinced we need to change the status quo and that nobody is going to do this for us from within. One government director told me on his last day in the Confederation building "if you think you can change this place from within, you are delusional".

    Is there a critical mass yet of Newfoundlanders willing to support a new party? If not, we need to continue educating them until that support materializes.

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    1. You make a good case that NL is a feudal oligarchy. It matters not what party is at the helm. With no transparency into matters that will devastate NL for generations (57 years) and no accountability for the lies deception and incompetence you do not have a democracy. With both the transparency and accountability legs of your democracy cut off your "democracy" is a meaningless illusion. It will keep you paralyzed and victimized until you confront the underlying oligarchic control of the treasury.

      Standing up to the oligarchs will be difficult and will require courage but it will set you free. A new party without dealing with the underlying corruption is doomed to fail.

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  6. Who could lead a new party, or bring sense to the existing parties. Gerry Byrne is a good talker, and challenges the MUN waste......but on minor issues, like 700 dollar meals. How about the value of the so called research they do.......pray tell what research in the last 20 years has been beneficial to society.......show me the list.......the devil is in the details. At 300 million a year, 6 billion in 20 years, that is like another Muskrat Falls.......and the best we got from MUN is Wade Lockes proposals to waste 12 billion on MF. Is there better research done at MUN that has been useful.......show me the list.
    Research for the sake of research with no benefits is a waste of money.
    Then there is Ryan Cleary, the fighting Nflder......he could get Nflders riled up.......maybe, but he changes colors so often it smells of self serving.
    Bill Barry might have made a difference.......but was out of favour with the party
    Ches Crosbie.............duh............

    Can`t think of a person who is fit for the challenge.......
    Maybe Des Sullivan would be a good premier and Dave Vardy his key adviser.........but maybe younger blood is needed for the task, and I see none capable.
    So, maybe we are doomed, once the banks stop loading us money they know we are unable to pay back.
    And Nalcor controls the whole show, not just the engineering association, but MUN as well, and not just Wade Locke.

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  7. Until legislation binds our senior decision-making officials within (or affiliated with) government to accountability, nothing will change. We need to hold these so called professionals and leaders feet to the fire for personal gain, corruption, or incompetence due to neglect. Especially when there are very lucrative severances and pensions on the line.

    I'm sure this blog has many individuals feeling rather uneasy. And rightly so.

    On a final note, this project does not not bode well for any professional engineer / company / politician who had any input with cost analysis. To estimate a job and be off as much as 100 + per cent makes one believe there is severe incompetence within PEGNL and both political parties.

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    1. The Washington Post recently added “democracy dies in darkness” to its masthead. It should be the epitaph on the headstone of NL's failed democracy.

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  8. The fact that the conception and sanctioning of MF was pushed through with half truths and outright lies and the deafening silence from PEGNL given all the comments and concerns being expressed, it is unbelievable and astounding that it's full speed ahead and damn the financial implications and most importantly damn the lives and welfare of the people in Labrador when anyone in authority refuses to listen. It's as if we are living in a third world environment. Most everyone knows that refusal to address the financial and safety Boondoggle with MF, is to protect the integrity and well being of a select few powerful people who are directly responsible for the mess we're in. The petition presented to Perry Trimple to take to Government will undoubtedly be buried. For the residents to have their very lives put in jeopardy by a project which makes no sense whatsoever and the severe financial implications to everyone in NL absolutely boggles my mind. We have no protection whatsoever from Government who are still allowing this to happen. PEGNL would have an important input here but looks like they are protecting themselves from the actions of a few of their members to protect their own integrity.
    We,the residens of NL,are being treated like garbage by our own Government all because of a few powerful despicable despots who are still "in charge". For God's sake Mr. Ball please step up to the plate and do what is right.

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    1. Wayne, Perry Pimple was part of the Nalcor team getting this sanctioned. Burying the petition is a certainty....unless they are forced to act.

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  9. CBC: Former Muskrat Falls engineer calls for forensic audit to examine 'absurdly low' cost estimates

    Nalcor Energy CEO Stan Marshall focused on the future, but not opposed to review of the past


    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/muskrat-falls-engineer-cost-estimates-forensic-audit-call-1.4104690

    --------------------------------------------------------

    About time CBC covers this.

    Radio-Canada has a similar French version. This one seemed to have appeared Canada wide.

    http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1032873/estimation-couts-muskrat-falls-verification-juricomptable-ingenieur-terre-neuve-Labrador

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    1. There is a big problem with this. The CEO's contract "to get the job done".
      How much longer can the high profile Construction Manager be allowed to turn a blind eye to false estimates at project commissioning?
      Control from the Federal guarantee to complete this smelly project needs to be opened up in the "Transparent government in Ottawa". Is the NL cabinet minister still on the job? If not the remaining Liberal MPs need to be held to account.

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    2. I agree with you Robert. But I see a shift in Marshall's message:

      "I haven't gone back and done a forensic study of what went on here," Marshall said in an interview.
      "When I came into the project last year this time, it was in crisis" "My first priority was to try to stabilize the situation, and start working ourselves out of that crisis" Marshall added.

      Do you think Dwight Ball might use a similar face saving spin and approve a forensic audit?

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    3. Ask your MP. Without full support for forensics by the Feds, nothing constructive will happen.

      How damaging to the cofferdam, is the Spring runoff ? Does anyone know?

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    4. I don't see the Feds supporting an audit. Canadians would then discover how irresponsible they were in "enabling" MF to go forward.

      * "enabling" is our approved wording/definition of the Fed responsibility... ;-)

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    5. Thx for the article Ex-Military Engr - I think what I find most troubling in the context of a project now costing more than a third of NL's annual GDP is the following quote from the article:

      Marshall pointed to a lack of experience as a key contributing factor.

      When the project began, he noted, no one in Nalcor's senior management team had ever done a project like this before.

      "They were learning as they went along," he said. "And they paid for their education."

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    6. "...no one in Nalcor's senior management team had ever done a project like this before"

      Agree Bernard, that's particularly revealing.

      As we all know, Nalcor did not have the means, the experience, the competence or the financial capacity to undertake such a project. Furthermore, Nfld did not need that electricity anytime soon. And even if it did, it was not the least costs option. (All this has been extremely well covered in this blog – thanks Ed)

      At least, Smallwood was well aware of Nfld strengths and weaknesses. He opted for a risk-free, turnkey solution. All paid for by...

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    7. Agree that Nalcor did not use the abundant experience available to it here in NL . Wonder why?? Good to see the Quebec bias here,though. Does not change the problems for us either here or in PQ, though.

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    8. "Quebec bias"

      I believe it's relevant to have both sides of a story ("deux côtés d'une même médaille").

      I'm sure that indeed, Nalcor did not sufficiently use the abundant experience available in NL. Beside complex petroleum projects etc, many must have worked in hydro projects at some point, somewhere. (Regret if my previous wordings triggered some sensibilities)

      Feel free Anonymous to correct me if you are aware of additional facts. Well, you were never shy to attempt so in the past... ;-)

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    9. "Wonder why"

      I don't understand what you are referring to Anon. Why is it that Nalcor has not used the abundant experience available in NL? It is startling to hear the head of Nalcor say they have been learning by doing don't you think? Are they still learning by doing?

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    10. About a year ago, I had used the word BLUNDER as applicable to MF and suggested the Telegram might identify it as such. Stan Marshall came on the scene and identified it as a boondoggle. Today , in the CBC piece, he uses the word Blunder in reference to Muskrat.
      So ....is a boondoggle fixable and a blunder not, or is a blunder worse or better than a boondoggle.......
      Marshall says MF will not go to 15 billion unless something CRAZY is suggested, whereupon he will quit.....
      Two Crazy things: a fix to the North Spur.......or a review board to assess the need......would that make Stan walk
      And another Crazy idea...a robust energy conservation and efficiency plan like Nova Scotia, with incentives, to mitigate high power rates, to help residential and commercial customers to reduce energy use ..........would this cause Stan to walk.....
      Reduced use is coming is the reality, but if implemented with incentives, could offset waste of another six billion.....and mean putting MF ON ICE.
      Stan says we will not hit 15 billion........but that leaves another 3 billion of possible expenditure. Not reassuring.
      And Stan claims great success so far.........so what is the mitigation on rates that he promised.........with 18 percent now sought by Nfld Hydro, for projected oil increases for fuel for Holyrood.........is this another phase 2 of justification of the need for Muskrat........oil heading for 200 dollars a barrel again.........it worked once, why not again, to justify the continuing waste on Muskrat.
      Winston

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    11. Winston, This is a great 1970 interview with Lennon. His straight unvarnished comments on Paul, Dylan and others is brutally honest.
      http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/john-lennon-1970-jann-wenner-rolling-stone-interview-w481395

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  10. Looks like Site C may not proceed for some time. The new coalition, Tories, (BC Liberals) NDP, Greens will obviously have to listen to reason and economics. Hopefully the Feds get the message. Such a stalemate election is the best that NL can hope for, in an effort to forestall completion and "Get er done Stan".

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  11. One down, one to go.

    http://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/2017/5/10/n-l-_s-ndp-support-forensic-audit-of-muskrat-falls.html.

    Did I hear a whisper of support from the Tories?

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  12. Robert, is there news on Site C being put on hold?

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    1. Any coalition between Liberals or NDP with Greens will require a thorough review to the already suspect economics/land claims issues on Site C. Next two weeks vote counting will determine the outcome. Contractors who helped finance the re-election of Liberals, (Tories), are not amused.

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