Nanaimo and regional officials will meet with B.C. Premier Christy Clark this morning to discuss an application by FortisBC to merge its utilities and provide a lower natural gas rate to Vancouver Island customers.
Regional District of Nanaimo chairman Joe Stanhope wills peak at the meeting as a representative of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, of which he is past president.
The meeting will also include a representative from FortisBC, and will kick off the second day of the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities 2013 conference in Vancouver.
Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan will also attend, as will Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.
Stanhope said the AVICC is appealing a decision by the B.C. Utilities Commission in February that denied a Fortis BC application to merge its utilities - FortisBC Energy Inc.,
FortisBC Energy (Whistler) and FortisBC Energy (Vancouver Island) - and provide a common 'postage stamp' rate across the entire province.
According to FortisBC spokeswoman Carol Greaves, Vancouver Island residents pay 20 per cent more than customers elsewhere in the province. FortisBC has a new application before the BCUC, she said.
Stanhope said the AVICC filed as an intervenor during the last application and is better prepared to continue its fight to see common natural gas prices.
Stanhope said the issue is a "$10-million struggle for fairness on natural gas. .. for users on Vancouver Island."
He said diverging natural gas prices can cost millions for local governments on the Island each year. "Then there's individuals and businesses."
Stanhope has worked on the issue for years and called the meeting "probably the most important in my lifetime."
In addition to the meeting with Clark, local officials will also meet with other provincial counterparts over the course of the five-day conference.
Ruttan and other Nanaimo representatives will meet with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson on Wednesday.
Stanhope and deputy board chairwoman Coun. Diane Brennan will meet with B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm to discuss seaweed harvesting.
The estimated cost of sending the Nanaimo delegates to the conference is $12,000.
© Copyright 2013