Thefts, vandalism and poor gas mileage: No issue too small to review at N.B. Power rate hearing
Expenses down to tens of dollars being looked at during two-week rate hearing
Theft of copper wire and catalytic converters, and incidents of general vandalism of N.B. Power property have become so common the utility has begun to track and account for the incidents as a regular recurring expense, its rate hearing heard on Thursday.
"Folks are breaking into some of our substation terminals and they are stealing copper," said Phil Landry, N.B. Power's executive director of project management offices and engineering.
"And no different than we've seen on the news, getting our catalytic converters stolen out of our trucks."
Daily at N.B. Power's rate hearing, attention swings widely from big-picture examinations of billion-dollar expenses like the upcoming refurbishment of the Mactaquac dam down to issues that involve thousands — or even tens of dollars — like thefts, vandalism or poor gas mileage recorded in company vehicles.
On Thursday, J.D. Irving Ltd. lawyer Brianne Rudderham covered all of those topics and more.
On the theft and vandalism issue, the utility documented 118 incidents in 2022, more than double the number in 2021 and nearly five times what was suffered in 2019 when just 25 events were noted.
N.B. Power's director of finance operations, Angela Leaman, said with incidents occurring more frequently, the utility has set up a category in its accounting and budgeting system to track events and costs as they occur.
"We hadn't been, but this past fiscal year we did set up a structure," said Leaman.
N.B. Power self-insures many of its assets and Phil Landry said every incident represents a complete financial loss.
"Are these covered by insurance," asked Rudderham.
"No, they are not," said Landry.
Rudderham asked questions on the big issues as well. She tried to get a figure on how much has been spent on planning for the multi-billion-dollar Mactaquac dam refurbishment project to date but no one had the amount at their fingertips.
She had more luck on smaller items, including a revelation some lead-footed N.B. Power employees regularly drive over the speed limit and add to company fuel costs.
Leaman confirmed many company vehicles are equipped with devices that track driving habits and in some cases they do show evidence of high speeds.
"The faster you go, the more fuel you burn," said Leaman.
"To the extent that they are exceeding speed limits when they are executing their work, there would be reports available to provide to managers."
Twenty-two N.B. Power witnesses are scheduled to testify during the two-week hearing, in which 400 documents have been submitted for review. Three expert witnesses hired by other participants are also expected to give evidence.