Nova Scotia

UARB rejects automatic gas price interrupter

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has rejected a move towards New Brunswick-style gasoline price regulation in a 20-page decision issued Tuesday.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has rejected a move towards New Brunswick-style gasoline price regulation in a 20-page decision issued Tuesday.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter had asked the regulator this summer to consider implementing a price interrupter system that would automatically trigger price adjustments, if certain benchmarks were hit.

But, the board ruled it should continue to regulate prices on a weekly basis and retain discretionary power to trigger its own interrupter mechanism.

"The Board concludes, having reviewed the objectives of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulations, significant problems may arise if a mandatory interrupter is adopted and if the ability of the Board to act is curtailed," the decision said.

Board members Peter Gurnham, Roland Deveau and Murray Doehler rejected a suggestion from Dexter that the mandatory interrupter be triggered only when prices are going down, saying that would be unfair.

In the end, the board was not convinced the system in place in New Brunswick would benefit consumers.

"A mandatory interrupter may also cause prices to change more frequently than when using a discretionary model," the board wrote.

"Having discretion is more apt to meet the objective of price stability for two reasons: a price increase may not be as large as a mandatory one; and, in certain cases a mandatory interrupter could be applied in both directions, causing up to three interruptions within a week."

The board issued the following recommendations:

  • Retain discretionary power to impose an interrupter.
  • Use a trigger of six cents per litre to consider interruption.
  • The trigger amount be generally sustained for two days to consider interruption.
  • Use the prescribed benchmark price to calculate the trigger.
  • The application of the interrupter be discretionary and indiscriminate as to direction.
  • Continue setting the prescribed prices effective 12:01 a.m. Friday.

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