Category Archives: Province of Ontario

Bill 139 Would Provide Greater Land Use Planning Authority for Mississauga

Mississauga’s Planning and Development Committee yesterday expressed their support for Bill 139 and endorsed staff’s comments on the Ontario Government’s proposed legislation. The legislation would change the land use planning appeal system in Ontario and better preserve the natural environment.

The Government of Ontario introduced Bill 139 – the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act in May 2017.

The new act would create the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre to replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Together, these agencies would give municipalities a stronger voice in land use planning.

Among other changes, the Bill proposes to amend the Planning Act to only allow appeals to the Tribunal where a Council decision fails to conform to a policy statement or is inconsistent with a provincial or upper-tier plan. The Bill would also expand the types of matters that are exempt from appeal.

The City’s Legal Services staff reviewed the proposed amendments in consultation with Council members and City departments.

The resulting staff report includes a recommendation that the Mayor or designate convey support for the Bill and provide comments to the Standing Committee.

“Mississauga welcomes the opportunity to help shape land use planning at the local level,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “It is time that municipalities strengthen our authority to make local land use planning decisions. The proposed amendments align well with our efforts to build a great city that respects and preserves the natural environment as it continues to change and grow.”

In addition to expressing support for Bill 139, it is recommended in the report that comments be submitted relating to clarifying aspects of the new test for conformity, transition provisions to avoid a large influx of appeals, climate change policy requirements and exemption from appeal for Section 37 benefits and Community Improvement Plans.

“People should have a better, faster, more accessible and affordable process for appealing land use decisions,” said Janice Baker, City Manager and Chief Administrative Officer. “Municipalities know their communities and understand local land use issues. Bill 139 puts the responsibility for good planning where it belongs, in the hands of local decision makers.”

The recommendations contained in the report will be brought to Council for approval on October 11, 2017.

 

Natural Gas Rate Changes April 1, 2017

Ontario natural gas prices are changing

The vast majority of natural gas customers across Ontario will see changes on their bills below or close to the rate of inflation beginning on April 1, 2017.

The amount of the rate change will vary between utilities and how much natural gas individual customers use. Residential customers using the typical* amount of natural gas each month can expect to see their monthly bills rise as follows:

• + $0.67 for Enbridge Gas Distribution customers
• + $0.81 for Natural Resource Gas (NRG) customers
• +$1.68 for Union Gas Southern customers
• + $3.40 for Union Gas North East customers
• + $4.19 for Union Gas Northwest customers

Despite these rate changes, overall, customers are still paying significantly less than they were at peak periods in 2009 and 2014, when natural gas costs were higher in Ontario due to factors including high market prices and unusually cold weather.

The changes will take effect on April 1, 2017 for customers of Ontario’s three natural gas utilities – Enbridge Gas Distribution, Union Gas and Natural Resources Gas (NRG). The changes reflect the routine quarterly adjustment for the market price of the natural gas commodity – known as the Quarterly Rate Adjustment Mechanism (QRAM).

The QRAM

As a commodity, natural gas prices fluctuate daily and can change significantly over the course of a year, rising and falling based on factors such as weather and supply and demand.

Every three months, natural gas companies apply to adjust their rates to cover the cost of the market price of natural gas. Adjusting the rates each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 helps smooth the price to shield customers from sharp price swings that can occur on the market. Utilities are not allowed to earn a profit on the commodity cost of natural gas so these costs are passed on to customers by utilities without a mark-up.

QRAM adjustments for each utility are as follows:

• +0.89% for Enbridge customers, reflecting an increase in transportation and commodity costs, as well as changes to the load balancing and commodity cost true ups from prior periods
• +1.1% for NRG customers, reflecting an increase in gas supply charges
• +2.52% for Union Gas South customers, reflecting the expiration of a rebate credit from April 2016 that is partially offset by lower commodity forecast costs
• +3.88% for Union Gas North Eastern customers, reflecting an increase in gas supply charges that is partially offset by lower commodity forecast costs
• +5.33% for Union Gas Northwest customers, reflecting the expiration of a rate adjustment (credit) from April 2016 and increasing commodity and transportation costs

Cap & Trade

After being introduced on January 1, 2017, the interim rates for cap and trade included in the “Delivery to You” line of the bill remain unchanged.

Utility Rate Adjustments

There are no changes to the distribution rates – reflected in the “Delivery to You” and “Customer Charge” lines on the bill – for this period.

Natural Gas Rate Changes Jan. 1, 2017

Ontario natural gas prices are changing, but still lower than previous years

Natural gas customers across Ontario will see increases on their bills in the New Year, but overall, prices will remain lower in 2017 than they have been during recent peak periods – even when factoring in the cost of cap and trade.

The changes include the routine quarterly adjustment for the market price of the natural gas commodity – known as the Quarterly Rate Adjustment Mechanism (QRAM) – which has taken place every three months since 2001 and will impact rates for customers of Ontario’s three natural gas utilities – Enbridge, Union Gas and NRG – beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

In addition, the OEB recently granted interim rates for cap and trade and a rate adjustment for utility operations for Enbridge and Union Gas – all of which will impact customer bills in the New Year. Union Gas is also changing its rate zones to better reflect where it buys natural gas from and how it transports it to its customers.

Despite these rate adjustments and the introduction of cap and trade, overall, customers are still paying significantly less than they were at peak periods in 2009 and 2014, when natural gas costs were higher in Ontario due to factors including high market prices and unusually cold weather.

The amount of the increases to customers’ bills will vary between utilities and how much natural gas individual customers use. However, typical residential customers can expect to see their bills rise by between $4.65 and $13.54 on average per month for the year ahead.<!–more–>

The QRAM

The QRAM portion of today’s announcement is a routine rate adjustment – a process that’s been in place since 2001.

As a commodity, natural gas prices fluctuate daily and can change significantly over the course of a year, rising and falling based on factors such as weather and supply and demand.

Every three months, natural gas companies apply to adjust their rates to cover the cost of the market price of natural gas. Adjusting the rates each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 helps smooth the price to shield customers from sharp price swings that can occur on the market. These costs are passed on to customers by utilities without a mark-up.

The latest adjustment takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, reflecting the actual cost of natural gas in the previous four months and a forecast of natural gas market prices for the upcoming year.

Cap and Trade

Another component of this upcoming rate change is the costs associated with the government’s cap and trade program, which takes effect in January.

Enbridge, Union and NRG are required to manage their own business operations and buy allowances to cover the emissions that their customers – including Ontario households and small businesses – produce.

The OEB has granted interim rates for each of the three utilities so they can participate in the cap and trade market and meet the obligations set out in the government’s cap and trade program, which is intended to reduce GHG emissions in Ontario, beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Consumers can participate in the process to decide final rates. For more information visit: OntarioEnergyBoard.ca/notice.

The OEB expects utilities to provide consistent and clear information to their customers to help them understand the cap and trade program and the associated costs. Utilities have a number of channels that they are already using for customer outreach, including websites, bill calculators, call centres and bill inserts.

Both Union Gas and Enbridge have indicated they will be meeting the OEB’s expectation to include an on-bill message about cap and trade, which includes a direct link to information already available about cap and trade costs (i.e. the cost per cubic metre of natural gas and the average cost impact of cap and trade for the typical customer) on their websites.

Rate Adjustments

For Enbridge and Union Gas customers, part of the change is a result of a small rate increase to fund their local operations.

Union Gas Rate Zones

Following review and approval by the OEB, Union Gas has introduced a change in rate zones to better reflect the mix of natural gas supply markets and transportation pipelines available to serve each area. Union Gas is making this change so customer costs in each area are better aligned with the true cost of natural gas supply and the transportation services that serve them.

Resources:

OntarioEnergyBoard.ca
EnbridgeGas.com
UnionGas.com
NRGas.ca

NATURAL GAS RATE CHART – JAN. 1, 2017

The following chart shows the average overall monthly bill impacts in addition to a breakdown of each of the monthly impacts of the OEB’s Quarterly Rate Adjustment Mechanism (QRAM), cap and trade interim rates, as well as a rate adjustment for Enbridge and Union Gas. These totals are based on a typical residential customer for each utility.

Exact impacts will depend on how much natural gas customers use each month.