ON Gov Fights Fraser Report; NB Slow to Fix Rates

The Ontario government is fiercely disputing the validity of a recent Fraser Institute report claiming that phasing out coal-fired power plants across the province yielded only “small improvements” in air quality between Ottawa, Hamilton, and Toronto. Scientists from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) allege that the models used by the right-wing think tank are “overly simplistic” and too “scientifically and methodologically flawed” to support the conclusions published in its January report, Did the Coal Phase-out Reduce Ontario Air Pollution? The report analyzed data for three Ontario cities between 2002 and 2014 (coal-fired power plants were phased out between 2005 and 2014) and used statistical models to determine that overall, the reduction of air contaminants associated with declining coal use was “statistically insignificant.” Provincial government researchers, however, say that the Fraser Institute omitted key air contaminant variables in its study, used inappropriate analytical methods, and would not pass a peer review process. The Fraser Institute has wholeheartedly denied claims that it failed to account for key air contaminants, and in an email statement, pointed to the page numbers of its report that it claims address the scientists’ concerns. “I suspect the scientists you talked to didn’t read the report,” its co-author, Ross McKitrick, told National Observer. “Second, they need to explain why our results mirror so closely the predictions made by the province’s own DSS report in 2005, on which the cabinet based its decision (to phase out coal-fired power plants).”

More than 25 years of unfair electricity pricing for small business in New Brunswick may finally be coming to an end — but NB Power has told its rate hearing it may take another decade to completely fix the problem. Philippe Gauthier of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says commercial power rates in New Brunswick have been such a long–running “injustice” he’s not concerned about the timing of a solution — just that it happens. Small businesses in New Brunswick are charged 22 per cent more for the electricity they consume than residential customers, even though they generally cost less to service and supply. As a result, commercial customers in New Brunswick will be overcharged for power this year by an estimated $37 million. To address that, NB Power is proposing a smaller rate increase for many of its commercial customers this year of 0.9 per cent while suggesting 2.3 per cent hikes for residential customers and two per cent for all others, including large industry. Excessive commercial power rates in New Brunswick were first identified as a problem at a NB Power hearing in 1992. The former Public Utilities Board [PUB] found NB Power was overcharging commercial customers to keep rates to residential customers low and it ordered a fix. “The board will expect NB Power at the time of its next general rate application to propose changes,” the PUB instructed in a written decision in April 1992. Some progress has been made since then, but 25 years later unfair pricing for commercial customers remains a multimillion dollar problem

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