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Wells goes on climate change rant at PUB hearing

The Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) chairman Andy Wells voiced questionable information and skepticism about climate change Wednesday morning as he questioned Nalcor CEO Ed Martin during the board’s general rate application hearings.

Andy Wells — Telegram file photo

As Martin’s testimony wrapped up, Wells stepped in to ask a few questions directly, starting by asking about greenhouse gases.

“There’s only two — water vapour and CO2,” Wells said.

That statement is questionable according to experts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lists methane, nitrous oxide and ozone as greenhouse gases, along with carbon dioxide and water vapour.

The IPCC also points out that the Kyoto Protocol on climate change deals with greenhouse gases sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.

Wells heaped scorn on the notion that carbon dioxide is harmful.

“So, how bad is CO2?” he asked. “Do you know anybody showing in (emergency departments) saying, ‘B’y, I’m sick today because CO2 levels are up?’” Wells asked Martin.

“I mean, greenhouse workers are exposed daily to elevated levels of CO2.”

But plants consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen through photosynthesis, and therefore greenhouse workers would, if anything, be exposed to lower-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real, and caused by humans emitting greenhouse gases.

While people do not frequently show up in hospital emergency rooms as a result of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists say climate change is a massive threat to human life on Earth.

Speaking to reporters following the hearing, Martin chose his words carefully.

“I can’t comment on Mr. Wells’ viewpoint and thoughts, but I can talk about how I see the greenhouse gas situation as it relates to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro,” Martin said.

“I look at it in two ways: we have to stay abreast of it, and if people say do I agree or disagree with the science, that’s not really a question for me. That’s not relevant for my position.”

Martin said his primary concerns as CEO of Nalcor are about whether government actions on climate change will put additional costs on the oil or diesel Nalcor uses, and whether regulation around greenhouse gas emissions will affect the electricity markets NL Hydro sells power into.

Wells’ skepticism about climate change is not new.

Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to St. John’s city council voicing opposition to buying electric vehicles, calling them “yuppie driveway bling.”

Wells was appointed PUB chairman by then-premier Danny Williams in 2008.

Less than a month after he was appointed, Wells wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Telegram saying, “A substantial body of scientific evidence exists to show that there is no relationship between human activity and global warming.”

As chairman of the Public Utilities Board, he is the top official responsible for regulating the province’s electricity system.

The position is a 10-year term, meaning Wells can hold the job until at least 2018, with the possibility of a government appointment for another 10-year term.

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