A KITIMAT senior citizen is calling “pure robbery” natural gas delivery rates being charged by Pacific Northern Gas (PNG), the region’s natural gas utility which supplies the fuel to northwestern B.C. businesses and residences.
Jim Wright, who will be 86 next week, says that while his latest two-month bill shows he used 17 gigajoules of natural gas at a cost of $41.28, the delivery cost was $204.81.
“How much profit do they need, for God’s sake,” said Wright of the delivery charge.
“They paid for that [natural gas] line 30 years ago. That’s pure robbery. Highway robbery.”
As a pensioner on a fixed income, Wright says the high amounts he’s charged for natural gas delivery cut into his every day living expenses.
“I just can’t believe the government is letting this happen,” he added.
In other countries such as Thailand, the government encourages the use of natural gas as a cleaner fuel, Wright continued.
As proof of that, Wright says he converted his truck so that it can run either on natural gas or regular gas.
Running costs for natural gas are about half as much as regular gas, he said.
“We have lots of natural gas here,” said Wright. “We’re spending millions of dollars on environmental control and here we have a cleaner fuel. We’ve just got a bunch of hypocrites running this province.”
Wright said he even spent just under $5,000 to install a new and more energy efficient furnace to heat his 1,000 square foot home in hopes of reducing his heating costs.
“But that cost keeps rising,” he said.
Even though Wright’s actual gas usage charge on his last bill may have been just $41.28, when PNG adds on the delivery charge and a basic administrative fee and when GST, the province’s carbon tax and a special provincial tax are included, his total bill comes to $327.68.
Wright said he’s not alone in his complaints about PNG’s delivery rates.
“I’m hearing this all over. How many homes are they servicing and what are they making,” he said of the utility.
Wright moved to Kitimat in 1989 to work on an Alcan expansion project.
“I’m an ardent fisherman and that’s why I’m staying here. It sure as hell isn’t for the gas prices.”
PNG’s delivery rates are regulated by the province’s B.C. Utilities Commission and are reviewed regularly.
The utility passes through the cost of natural gas as is and cannot add to it.
PNG’s delivery rates are now more than three times what they are for natural gas deliveries elsewhere in the province.
The utility’s delivery rates began climbing when it lost large-scale industrial users of natural gas more than a decade ago, leaving residences and smaller businesses to shoulder the cost of maintaining its northwestern B.C. delivery network.
There had been hopes delivery rates would drop based on a small liquefied natural gas project planned for Kitimat.
That project, called Douglas Channel LNG, involving PNG’s owner, AltaGas of Calgary, would have taken up the surplus space in PNG’s gas line.
Delivery payments made by Douglas Channel LNG for its plant would have then eased the current high rates being experienced by PNG’s existing customers.
But any hopes of that project proceeding were dashed earlier this year when AltaGas and its partners shelved the project, sayinig they could not find offshore customers to purchase the liquefied natural gas that project would have produced.