Ligni Bel of Scotsburn, Nova Scotia, challenges C$85K penalty from Nova Scotia Power, hearing scheduled for December

LOS ANGELES , October 5, 2011 () – Ligni Bel of Scotsburn, Nova Scotia, is challenging a C$85,000 penalty to its power bill, saying it could put direct jobs at the sawmill in jeopardy, the Chronicle Herald reported on Oct. 4.

Nova Scotia Power imposed the fine earlier this year on the grounds that the mill had failed to respond on time to a power interruption call on Jan. 23. Ligni Bel receives a discounted rate for agreeing to turn off electricity at peak times, when Nova Scotia Power needs to reduce its load.

Ligni Bel says it did comply with the utility’s request and has applied to the province's Utility and Review Board to overturn the charge. A hearing on the penalty has been scheduled for Dec. 8.

Mill manager Gilbert Carre said in a Feb. 28 letter that levying the penalty would place the mill, its jobs and spin-off employment in jeopardy, and this would seriously affect the employment of over 200 people. He added: "It is in no one’s best interest to drive this employer out of business with a penalty that will not benefit anyone."

Utility spokeswoman Jennifer Parker said on Monday that Nova Scotia Power would respond to Ligni Bel's appeal, and looked forward to sharing its information at the hearing.

The utility has told the board that its automated calling system made three attempts to reach Ligni Bel on Jan. 23, starting at 5:02 p.m., but received no answer until after a third call was made at 5:33 p.m. But Ligni Bel says it only received the 5.33 p.m. message and responded immediately.

The utility applied the penalty to Ligni Bel's January bill, saying it should have agreed to interrupt its power supply within 10 minutes of the first call. Don Farmer, a dispute resolution officer appointed by Nova Scotia Power agreed in June that Ligni Bell had breached the terms of its discount-rate agreement.

Last month, Ligni Bel was forced to lay off half its 80 employees because of the NewPage Port Hawkesbury closure. The sawmill depended on the paper mill in Point Tupper for its wood supply, which was interrupted when the mill closed and entered creditor protection. Ligni Bel also supplied woodchips to NewPage.

An official from parent company Lebcorp said the mill is producing less than half its usual volume without the Crown lumber suppled by NewPage.

The primary source of this article is the Chronicle-Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Oct. 4, 2011.

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