Enbridge Gas New Brunswick has applied for a quick increase in gas distribution charges for New Brunswick commercial and industrial users at a hearing scheduled for next week.

Homeowners are facing their second decrease in three months when prices paid by all customers go in front of the Energy and Utilities Board. 

Enbridge wants to speed up proposed rate changes at next week's hearing. In October, the company filed an application for new rates, but now it wants interim changes approved for Jan. 1 with a full hearing to follow later.

The Flakeboard plant in St. Stephen is a major user of natural gas and is fighting plans by Enbridge to increase its distribution rate for the second time in three months, according to manager David Moffatt.

“It's very difficult for us to be confident in the management plan that we've established for one year to the next with the unpredictability we've seen in this input cost,” he said.

Government reforms struck down

Flakeboard is one of 2,000 large gas users in New Brunswick. That includes everything from manufacturing plants to hospitals. 

The increases have undone nearly half of major price cuts ordered for big users by government.

Two years ago, New Brunswick Energy Minister Craig Leonard introduced legislation to force significant distribution rate cuts on Enbridge for big gas users. 

The move was condemned by Enbridge board member and long-time New Brunswick Conservative Bud Bird as a devious breach of Enbridge's franchise agreement with the province

But Premier David Alward said the economy demanded lower rates.

Big users got big rate cuts, but this year courts sided with Enbridge and struck down half of the government reforms. That left Enbridge free to apply for rate increases.