UPDATED June 3: We now have a sufficiently un-redacted version of the material supporting the claim of $17million savings for consuners. You can read it here. At over 100 pages, plus reference material, reviewing it for a new article will take some time.
Alton Gas wants to spend $100 million creating underground storage for natural gas. While it has all the permits required by government, controversy has dogged the project. Both the proponent and the government are obviously wary about pulling the trigger on completing the project.
Dragged out over the last two plus years while the project was stalled, there have been many stories in the mainstream media. In every news release, and every other opportunity it gets, Alton Gas touts the $17 million that consumers would be saved anually. While not officially supporting the project, the provincial government has also repeated this positive news figure.
That figure of $17million savings from having gas storage, where does it come from? Alton Gas did not make anyone available to explain. Skeptics might assume it to be self promotion drawn up on the back of an envelope.
But two years ago the parent company of Alton Gas had to go the Utility and Review Board (UARB) for authorization to bill consumers for the costs of building the storage. AltaGas is also the parent of Heritage Gas, the local natural gas distribution company. So the filing with the UARB is actually by Heritage Gas- but the navigating of the process was done by AltaGas / Alton Gas. Similar to the reality that if you phone Media Relations for Alton Gas, you get a person at the AltaGas Calgary headquarters.
The heart of the 2014 – 2015 UARB process was a report by industry consultants ICF in Virginia. ICF developed that figure of a projected $17million annual savings from Heritage Gas having storage available. Unfortunately, every number in that report has been redacted in the public filing.
Redacting in UARB filings is done by the proponent when they feel that the information is “commercially sensitive”. The plain English definition for that is data that could be used to their advantage by a competitor.
But that simple $17million figure is itself under the black ink of redacting- even though Alton Gas uses it all the time. And leaving aside the question of who might be a potential competitor for a regulated monopoly.... or how this competitor might be able to used data about prospective costs savings in these regulated monopoly sales of natural gas.
At any rate, there is no way of testing that $17million figure for the much touted savings to customers. Alton Gas is not talking, and the public filings presumably behind the figure are completely redacted.