New Brunswickers brutalized by sky-high natural gas prices last winter may not be done paying their bills just yet.
Enbridge Gas New Brunswick (EGNB) says emergency mid-winter discounts it was forced to provide to 10,000 homeowners and small businesses cost it $2.4 million and it wants the money back.
In filings with the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, Enbridge says the discounts in its distribution charges — ordered by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) to combat record natural gas prices between February and April — should be returned.
"EGNB has incurred a $2.4 million shortfall as a result of [the EUB order]," Gilles Volpé, the company's general manager, states in an affidavit filed with the court in Fredericton last week.
"As a result of the decision EGNB has been denied the opportunity to recover its full revenue requirement in 2014,” he said.
Enbridge does not specify whether the reimbursement should come from homeowners, other customers or some combination.
Last winter, natural gas prices hit an all-time high from New Jersey to Nova Scotia as brutally cold temperatures ate up regional supplies and pipeline bottlenecks hampered the delivery of replacement gas. That caused a series of natural gas price spikes around the region with those who were able, switching to other fuels.
In New Brunswick, however, homeowners and small businesses had some protection from high prices — a regulatory rule that their cost of heating with gas must be cheaper than the cost of heating with electricity.
In January, the EUB said natural gas price spikes had eroded that advantage and ordered Enbridge to lower its distribution rates to offset the high gas prices.
Enbridge complied and passed along discounts that averaged about $240 to each of its residential and small business customers, but asked for the right to recover the money later. The EUB denied that request in a decision in April.
Enbridge says the EUB approved a revenue target for the company that the wintertime discounts make impossible to recover and it is asking the Court of Appeal to reverse that decision.
"EGNB does not have the opportunity, means or ability to recover the $2.4 million revenue shortfall," Volpé said in his affidavit.
The appeal court is scheduled to hear the matter in September.
Enbridge opponents have been critical of its attempt to recover the discounts passed along to consumers. In letters to the EUB following its April decision,
René Basque, the public intervener, and Christopher Stewart, a lawyer who represented industrial clients at the rate hearing, both said Enbridge is not entitled to recover any money.
"EGNB asked for the ... shortfall to be recovered," wrote Stewart.
"The board denied this request. This is the end of the matter."