Lawyers representing industry and the public ganged up on NB Power at the Energy and Utilities Board on Wednesday to try to stop it from raising rates by two per cent, before it proves it needs the increase at a full hearing.
"There's a reason why we require a full hearing on the evidence and that's to test it properly, and make sure the increase is warranted," said Heather Black, the public intervener who urged the EUB to reject an early increase for the utility.
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NB Power wants to raise rates by two per cent on April 1, but it applied for the increase on Dec. 28, too late to have the matter decided by spring.
The utility has been submitting evidence and answering questions about the application all winter and has a full hearing into the application scheduled for May 9.
Given that schedule, a decision from the Energy and Utilities Board on the application isn't likely until July 1.
NB Power says waiting that long will cost it $3.8 million in lost revenue and Wednesday, the utility asked the EUB to let it raise rates on April 1 in advance of the May hearing.
NB Power promised to pay the money back if the application is ultimately unsuccessful.
John Furey, the lawyer for NB Power, said the utility is falling behind in its aggressive 10-year financial plan to retire debt and needs all the money it can raise.
"We are behind in that goal. Every dollar matters," said Furey.
"What NB Power is required to show [for an interim increase] is harm. And there is harm," said Furey.
But Heather Black for the public, and Christopher Stewart for JD Irving Ltd., both argued NB Power caused its own problem by filing for the rate increase too late, and is not entitled to relief from that mistake.
"There's only one reason. They didn't apply in time," said Stewart.
Ray Gorman, the EUB chairman, said the board would deliver a decision by Monday, at the latest.