Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 18, 2015 - 8:58 am

Nunavut set to save $32 million from cheaper fuel this year

Baffin mayors hear about lower fuel costs, improved waste treatment

PETER VARGA
Tom Sammurtok, Nunavut’s minister of Community and Government Services, answers questions from mayors at the Baffin Mayor’s Forum March 17, with deputy minister Roy Green and Darren Flynn, assistant deputy minister of government services. Sammurtok said the region’s communities can expect to see lower fuel prices by the end of the year. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Tom Sammurtok, Nunavut’s minister of Community and Government Services, answers questions from mayors at the Baffin Mayor’s Forum March 17, with deputy minister Roy Green and Darren Flynn, assistant deputy minister of government services. Sammurtok said the region’s communities can expect to see lower fuel prices by the end of the year. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Thanks to exceptionally low oil prices, the Government of Nunavut will save about $32 million on fuel costs when it resupplies communities later this year, GN officials said March 17.

“While we won’t see any impact on pricing until next fall, we are optimistic that when the 2015 resupply is completed, that savings will remain positive for Nunavut,” the territory’s minister of Community and Government Services, Tom Sammurtok, said at the Baffin Mayors’ Forum in Iqaluit.

Sammurtok announced the savings to mayors of the Baffin region as part of an update on infrastructure priorities for the region’s 13 communities, and Nunavut’s 25 municipalities in general.

Mayors took news of the savings as a sign their communities will benefit from lower prices.

But Sammurtok said his department can’t calculate how much they will benefit until the end of the sealift season.

“We’ll have to wait until the fuel is actually delivered into the tanks,” Sammurtok said.

“We won’t do that analysis until we get to the end of the resupply,” Roy Green, deputy minister of CGS, told Nunatsiaq News.

“Probably September-October, we’ll know that information.”

All of Nunavut’s communities rely on diesel fuel for power generation. CGS’s Petroleum Products Division arranges fuel re-supply every sealift season, when tankers refill reservoirs to last from fall through summer.

Oil prices have hovered around $50 a barrel or less this year, compared to about $100 or more in 2014.

As of the morning of March 18, the price for West Texas Intermediate, a common global benchmark, had fallen to $42.28 per barrel.

That, in turn, is helping CGS’s Petroleum Products Division buy refined fuel products at a lower rate that last year, which Green says adds up to a difference of a little more that $32 million.

The question of what to do with the expected savings recently came up in the legislative assembly. Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes suggested, March 13, that the government invest the amounts into alternative energy projects, as a first step towards greater energy savings for communities.

Hickes noted that wind power projects have saved on fuel consumption at northern mines, and urged the government to support small-scale solar power and wind projects in hamlets, government infrastructure, and institutions such as schools and hospitals.

But questions about water and waste treatment infrastructure, which has little to do with the price of fuel, took greater priority at the mayors’ brief discussion with CGS at the forum,

Sammurtok reported that the government’s ongoing drive to bring all municipalities’ water licences into compliance, and upgrade outdated and overflowing dumps “is achieving results.”

He said five communities posted major victories last month, when the federal government confirmed they had dealt with their water license infractions.

“This progress was a direct result of actions taken by a working group established to meet water licensing requirements,” the minister reported to the mayors.

The working group includes Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which enforces water licences, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Association of Municipal Administrators and CGS.

“Our long term goal is to replace the existing solid waste sites [dumps],” Green said.

This will call for added funding from the federal government, and the territorial government expects a large share of that will come out of the New Building Canada Fund, he said.

Nunavut is to receive $256 million under the fund, in the period 2012 to 2024, according to CGS.

Mayors from throughout the region recalled various problems with sewage and water services in their communities.

Charlie Inuarak, mayor of Pond Inlet and chair of the Baffin Mayors’ Forum, Mayor Mary Killiktee of Qikiqtarjuak and Mayor Mary Wilman of Iqaluit each noted different troubles their communities experienced in recent months.

The government’s progress on water and sewage “is the biggest news for me,” Wilman said, “and I am glad your department is taking it on as a priority.”

 

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