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Last updateThu, 22 Feb 2024 3pm

Resident still trying to change gas retailer after two years

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    For a local man, after two years of trying to switch his natural gas provider, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
    John Shoff has been trying to take advantage of the deregulated energy market in Alberta and switch his electricity and gas retailer, as other companies in Alberta are offering competitive contracts. He has since hit roadblocks on the gas side. He explains when he initially tried to switch in 2007, he learned that Altagas’ billing system was not compatible with other companies in Alberta. Because of this, it appears other retailers were either unable or hesitant to take on customers in areas where Altagas was the distributor.
    That has since changed as Geoff Scotton, senior communications advisor for the  Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) explains.
    “There was a technical issue around the tariff billing code. This is the set and format of information that is sent by the distributor to bill the customer,” said Scotton.
    “A couple years ago Altagas sought an exemption from having to adhere to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) rule on how the tariff code would be delivered. They were turned down, and subsequently had to adhere to those requirements, but in order to do so they had to re-jig its IT systems. They were able to do that about a month ago.”
    Shoff noticed the change when he surveyed his monthly bill, it now contained a Site Identification Number, a signal to him that the billing systems were compatible.
    Earl Tuele, president of Altagas, said there are no roadblocks on the Altagas end.
    “I’m surprised he has had trouble in the last couple weeks,” said Tuele. “Since then we have modified and upgraded our billing system to accommodate the electronic transfers of all information related to retail supply of gas to our customers if they choose to register with a retailer.”
    Shoff promptly called ENMAX to make the switch, however he was once again unsuccessful. He was told there was no agreement in place between Altagas and ENMAX.
    Scotton explains a number of steps need to be taken before a new retailer can break in to a new territory.
    “When the legislation was changed and opened the market to retail competition in natural gas, it provided the possibility of competition, but didn’t mandate that competition occur. In other words, it didn’t order retailers to provide retail access to their services everywhere in Alberta," said Scotton. “What is required is a retailer must reach an agreement with a supplier.”
    He explains the two parties must reach an agreement to bring terms and conditions into concert.
    “For that to happen, a retailer must pursue that agreement with the distributor,” said Scotton, adding this could already be in the process of being completed, and it would have to be approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission.
    Tuele says there is no reason another retailer cannot pursue an agreement with Altagas.
    “I made some enquiries in the last while to see if, for a retailer, there were any impediments of registering with us, and I am assured there are not. I also enquired if there are any impediments in our billing system to customers enrolling to be supplied by a retailer and I am assured there are not,” said Tuele.
    He also says he understands they are in the process of having these conditions approved.
    “Right now we are working with the AUC for final approval of our terms and conditions. We have them in place and we have an agreement that we can use them to sign up retailers and enrol customers, but if there are any changes that come out of this as a result of our discussions with the regulators, then we’ll make those changes. There is nothing in that process that I am aware of that stops retailers from signing up customers in our area, registering with us to be a retailer in our area.
    “We’re ready as we can be right now.”
    For Shoff, the bottom line is he is still not able to choose a retailer.
    “The way I see it, it kind of seems like we are in a monopoly,” said Shoff. “That is my frustration, it has taken so long. Now that we have Site I.D. how long is it going to take to get this retailers agreement in place?”
    “Maybe Altagas has the best price, but I want to be able to go to Direct Energy, or ENMAX, any of the ones that I am supposedly allowed to and see which has the best rate.”
    For his next step, Shoff is planning to make an appeal to the Alberta Utilities Commission.   

Rockyford Rodeo gets buckin’ this weekend

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    With the Calgary Stampede coming to a close this past weekend, rodeo enthusiasts can look forward to the 53rd annual Rockyford Rodeo this coming weekend.
    The three day FCA (Foothills Cowboy Association) action kicks off Friday, July 23 in the small town an hour’s drive south west of Drumheller.
    Probably the most exciting event this year is the professional gunfighters that will turn the Rockyford Main Street into the scene of an old West shootout, without the fatalities and whiskey.
    “We are as excitied as any year, the gunfighters should be a great addition,” says Rockyford Lions Club President Darcy Koester, who adds they have heard great things about the shootist troupe.
    Rodeo action kicks of at 1 p.m. on Friday, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday.
    The chuckwagon chariot races make their start Friday and Saturday at 6:30, and at noon Sunday.
    With a family dance Friday evening, the poker bull fight on all three days, and a catch and keep, the event has options for all members of the family.

Badlands Community Gardens are shaping up

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    Any ideas what to do with your old garbage bins yet?
    If not, the Badlands Community Gardens Society would love to take them off your hands. As long as they have a lid, are in good condition, watertight and wide enough to dip in a watering can, the Society can use them as water barrels.
    Located on the Newcastle Trail, the Badlands Community Gardens are starting to shape up.
    Lettuce, chives, radishes, beans, tomatoes, potatoes are just a few of the plants growing in the planters.
    In fact, there are only two spare ones left if anyone would like to try their hands at growing veggies or plants.
    So it is now a case of wait and see it grow, although some finishing touches will be added soon.
    “It’s functional now, but eventually it will be pretty and a nice place to hang out. We want to have fruit trees, rhubarb plants, the Tyrrell Museum donated a bunch of sapling, mostly spruce I think. We want to have a composting row behind a fence made out of willows, it will be very pretty some day! It’s just a matter of time and money, but it’s happening a little bit at a time, it’s very exciting,” said Community Garden Society director, Chris Marion.
 Two of the boxes were planted specifically for the food bank by the Greentree School Grade 4 - 6 kids, who like to refer to themselves as “The Sprouts,”  Marion told The Drumheller Mail.
    The Sprouts will be painting the shed before July 24, date of the Drumheller garden tour, and Marion has managed to secure some benches from the City of Calgary from their surplus stock.
    “They are awesome benches they were surpluses from their Devonian Gardens. They didn’t cost us very much, and Hi-Way 9 has offered to transport them here for free!” exclaimed Marion, who says the society has received help from many businesses and individuals from Drumheller. “The community is really behind us on this, it’s awesome. I am not surprised though, that is the Drumheller I have gotten to know.”
    The Society is concentrating on the Garden Tour, the first in a long time in Drumheller, they are organizing for Saturday, July 24, in collaboration with The Garden Club and Communities in Bloom.
    “It’s going good, we could use one or two more gardens, just to have more on the tour. The gardens we have so far are pretty neat, the people who have offered to show their garden are pretty interesting and one of the ladies has even offered to give a composting workshop, one at 10:00 in the morning and one at 2:00 p.m.”
    Contact Chris at 403-823-6930 or log on to badlandsgardens.ca for more information on the Garden Tour or the community gardens.

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