Scotsburn, Nova Scotia, sawmill Ligni Bel wins case challenging C$85,000 penalty from Nova Scotia Power; mill's manager says he hopes to restart production in mid-May on two-shift basis

LOS ANGELES , March 26, 2012 () – Scotsburn, Nova Scotia-based sawmill Ligni Bel won its case against Nova Scotia Power Inc. last week when the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board dismissed an C$85,000 penalty.

The utility made the charge last year, saying the now-shuttered sawmill had failed to respond on time to a power interruption call on Jan. 23. Ligni Bel is one of about 25  industrial customers that take part in the utility’s interruptible program, which offers a discounted rate for turning off electricity at peak times, The Chronicle Herald reported.

But the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board found that the Scotsburn mill shut down power within 10 minutes of receiving a request from Nova Scotia Power, and that earlier phone calls were not delivered to the sawmill's dedicated phone line from the utility’s automated phone system.

Ligni Bel's manager Gilbert Carre, manager of Ligni Bel, said he was pleased with the board’s decision. He said the mill carries out extensive training for the interruptible rate, and anybody who had been on-site would have been trained and answered the phones if they rang.

Companies in the scheme receive a credit of about $7,000/month on their electricity bills, but are fined heavily if they do not turn off power as soon as a request is received.

Nova Scotia Power officials argued that Ligni Bel should have shut down within 10 minutes of a first call at 5:02 p.m. or a second call at 5:18 p.m., on Jan. 23, 2011. But  Ligni Bel maintained that it did not receive a request until 5:33 p.m., when it complied immediately.

The board noted that Nova Scotia Power could not guarantee the earlier calls were delivered, and said the language of the large industrial interruptible rate was unclear. It found that as the sawmill was not operating at the time of the calls, there was no commercial or business reason to deliberately ignore the call.

Ligni Bel has been shut down since Nov. 2, and Carre testified at a hearing in December that the penalty would be detrimental to the business and affect its start-up date. Carre said after last week's ruling that he hopes to restart the lumber mill in mid-May and is working on securing enough logs from private woodlot owners to run two shifts.

The mill used to source half its logs from NewPage Crown land, but the arrangement ended with the closure of NewPage's Port Hawkesbury paper mill.

The primary source of this article is The Chronicle-Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 23, 2012.

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