New Brunswick

Enbridge loses bid to overturn N.B. gas regulations

A Court of Queen's Bench judge has quashed an attempt by Enbridge Gas to overturn new pricing regulations from the provincial government.

Enbridge Gas New Brunswick has failed in its bid to have the courts overturn new regulations under the provincial Gas Distribution Act.

In a written decision, released on Thursday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paulette Garnett dismissed the application.

When asked for comment Thursday, acting Energy Minister Craig Leonard's spokesman said in an email to the CBC, "The minister has nothing to add as he feels the decision speaks for itself."

Garnett ruled the provincial government was within its legal rights to create the regulation, which tells the Energy and Utilities Board how to set distribution rates, with the goal of lowering what customers have to pay.

Enbridge had argued it could lose more than $9.7 million a year and be forced to cut its staff in half and reduce services under the new regulations.

It also argued Regulation 4(1) usurped the authority of the EUB to set prices.

The natural gas company was seeking to have the regulation deemed invalid.

But Garnett ruled that since the legislature created the EUB, it has the authority to pass laws and create regulations on how the EUB functions.

It is not up to the court to consider the wisdom of the regulation, only if it's within the scope of law authorizing it, she said in her 16-page decision.

The impact on Enbridge is not relevant to consideration of whether the legislature had the power to act, Garnett added.

She also ordered the company to pay $5,000 in costs to the provincial government.

The Rates and Tariffs Regulation took effect on April 16.

The provincial government passed legislation in December that forced Enbridge to lower distribution fees and allowed other companies to distribute natural gas in northern New Brunswick.

The reforms were intended to reduce rates for natural gas users and lead to price sustainability.

Legislation in 1999 gave Enbridge sole distribution rights for 20 years and allowed the company to recover costs to build a pipeline system.

Enbridge is serving customers in Moncton, Riverview, Dieppe, Saint John, Fredericton, Oromocto, St. Stephen, St. George and Sackville.