The NSUARB has authority to grant franchises for the distribution of natural gas in Nova Scotia. The Board also exercises general regulatory supervision over the granted franchises, pipelines, gas plants and underground hydrocarbon storage facilities.
This function involves (1) the regulation of gas distribution and includes the granting of franchises and amendments to franchises, the licencing of gas marketers to sell natural gas to consumers, and the approval of rates and terms of service under the Gas Distribution Act. The Board sets the rates for the delivery of natural gas, not for the commodity itself; (2) the regulation of the design, construction and operation of pipelines and gas plants under the Pipeline Act; (3) the regulation of the design, construction and operation of underground hydrocarbon storage facilities under the Underground Hydrocarbons Storage Act; and (4) the hearing of appeals from decisions of the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Resources Removal Permit Act.
Gas Distribution Act
The Gas Distribution Act provides a framework for the “orderly development and operation of a gas delivery system" in Nova Scotia. The principal responsibility of the Board under the Act is to grant gas distribution franchises and grant licences to market natural gas. While the Act gives the Board the authority to grant a franchise application after a hearing, it also stipulates that the Board's decision is subject to approval by the Governor in Council. The Board must be satisfied that the granting of a franchise is in the public interest. The Act also gives the Board the authority to set the rates and tolls to be charged by a franchise holder, and provides criteria for the Board to consider when determining appropriate rates and tolls.
Applications for natural gas franchises are heard under the authority of the Gas Distribution Act and the Gas Distribution Regulations (Nova Scotia) made under that Act by the Governor in Council (“GIC Regulations"). The Board has also made regulations, the Board Gas Distribution Regulations (Nova Scotia), which establish the procedures, filing requirements and fees payable by the applicants and the Board Gas Marketers Regulations, which establish the required content for an application, together with the procedures and fees relating to its filing.
Originally, Heritage Gas Limited's franchise to distribute natural gas included Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou and Halifax Counties, in the Municipality of the District of East Hants and in the Goldboro area of Guysborough County. In December, 2014, the Board approved an amendment to the franchise to include Antigonish County. Heritage intends to serve the Antigonish area by utilizing compressed natural gas delivered by tanker trucks.
Strait Area Gas Corporation had been conditionally approved for a franchise to distribute natural gas in Antigonish, Inverness, and Richmond Counties and in Guysborough County (excluding Goldboro). However, Strait Area Gas did not fulfill the conditions of the approval and in November, 2014, the Board accepted Strait's request to surrender its franchise.
Regulation of Pipelines
Since September 1, 1999, responsibilities respecting the Pipeline Act and the Pipeline Regulations (Nova Scotia) have been assigned to the NSUARB. The Board has control over the manner in which gas and oil pipelines are constructed, tested, maintained and operated. No person shall construct and operate a pipeline except pursuant to an approval issued by the Board.
ExxonMobil Canada Properties is licensed to operate and maintain a natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline from its gas plant at Goldboro, Guysborough County to its fractionation plant at Point Tupper, Richmond County. Other licenses issued by the Board are held by ExxonMobil for the Subsea Pipeline, Goldboro Gas Plant and the Point Tupper Fractionation Plant.
Liquefied Natural Gas
As a result of an Order-in-Council dated July 8, 2005, the Gas Plant Facility Regulations were amended to give the Board powers to address public safety issues respecting liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Nova Scotia. The role of the Board, as set out in the Regulations, is to address public safety issues in relation to the design, construction, operation and abandonment of LNG plants in the Province.
On June 6, 2006, the Board issued a Permit to Construct to Bear Head LNG Corporation to commence construction of a LNG plant at Bear Head, near Point Tupper, Richmond County, Nova Scotia. The Bear Head permit has been extended to December 31, 2019. Bear Head has indicated that it intends to resurrect the project as a LNG export terminal.
Underground Hydrocarbons Storage
On September 2, 2013, the Board issued an Approval to Construct to Alton Natural Gas Storage LP for construction of an underground hydrocarbons storage facility near Alton, Nova Scotia. More recently, Alton applied for Permit to Construct the related surface facilities which will control the natural gas as it is injected into, or withdrawn from, the storage caverns.
Decisions of the Board can be accessed through the Decision Archive.