Monday, February 25th, 2008

Fight for lower energy bills for poor goes to Divisional Court

Today, the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) is appearing before a Divisional Court panel at 10:00 a.m. at Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Courtroom #3. LIEN is arguing that the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the authority to set affordable gas rates for low-income energy consumers.

In April 2007, the OEB released a decision that it had no jurisdiction to implement rate affordability programs for low-income residential consumers. The Board decision was not unanimous. In a strongly worded dissent, OEB Vice Chair Gordon Kaiser argued, “I believe the Act gives the Ontario Energy Board broad powers and discretion to consider issues of public policy and the necessary jurisdiction to enact low-income rates.”  Mr. Kaiser continued, “Put simply, just and reasonable rates do not result from the application of a purely mechanical process of rate review and design.”

LIEN is appealing the OEB’s decision to Divisional Court because a permanent rate assistance program is a crucial component of its strategy to address energy poverty in Ontario.

LIEN’s representatives Mary Truemner, Acting Director of Legal Services with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, and co-counsel Paul Manning of Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP said, “Low-income consumers struggle to manage their energy bills and pay for other essentials such as rent, food, transportation and medicine. The OEB should take this daily reality into account in order to set rates that are reasonable and just .

“We are hoping to convince the Court that the OEB is failing to protect the interests of low-income consumers whose only access to the vital service of energy is through a narrowly regulated utility currently allowed to set inequitable rates.”

For more information:

Mary Truemner, ACTO, 416-597-5855 ext. 5163
(Toll free in Ontario: 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5163)