Dinners, rental cars and legal fees rejected by utilities board

The Yukon Utilities Board denied more than $60,000 in receipts for dinners, lawyers and consultants made by intervenors who attended this year's hearing on the Mayo B power project.

The Yukon Utilities Board denied more than $60,000 in receipts for dinners, lawyers and consultants made by intervenors who attended this year’s hearing on the Mayo B power project.

Whitehorse, the Utilities Consumers’ Group, the Yukon Conservation Society and the Yukon Energy Corporation were slammed for things like duplicating work, charging for meals and lacking evidence for the $209,649 they wanted reimbursed for their involvement in the hearing.

The biggest crackdown in last week’s decision document was by far on Yukon Energy’s tab, which initially requested $139,612 for the lawyers and consultants it hired for the hearing.

Yukon Energy’s long-time lawyer John Landry led the power corporation’s submission during the Mayo B hearing – which addressed a five- to 10-megawatt expansion of Mayo’s hydro dam to be completed in 2012. The board determined 10.5 hours of work claimed by Landry’s firm, Davis LLP, weren’t justified.

The reasons for the work were “rather vague,” wrote the board.

Landry, along with two of Yukon Energy’s consultants, also claimed meals at Georgio’s Cuccina and the Pho Five Star Vietnamese restaurant during the three-day hearing in April. The board rejected the claims, along with receipts for gas, a rental car, telephone and fax services, since these are not admissible based on previous board rulings. In total, the board disallowed $760 worth of perks.

Yukon Energy’s Winnipeg-based consultants, InterGroup consulting, charged ratepayers for work by at least eight staffers when it filed for costs in July. The board rejected the claims because the lead consultant, Cam Osler, and his other top colleagues were expert enough to do the work themselves. There were also concerns over duplication.

InterGroup also claimed more than $1,000 for a meeting between its consultants and Yukon Energy in Vancouver before the hearing.

“The board is of the view that a meeting in Vancouver just prior to the hearing was not justified as the consultants could have met in Whitehorse prior to the meeting,” says the board’s decision document.

In total, Yukon Energy can only claim $99,696 of the $139,612 it requested.

The expense claims were challenged in July by Roger Rondeau, the head of the Utilities Consumers’ Group, a power company watchdog.

Yukon Energy didn’t comment at the time of Rondeau’s complaint.

But the consumers’ group didn’t escape unscathed from last week’s board ruling either.

The group hired Michael Buonaguro, a lawyer for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and Patrick McMahon to prep the group’s submissions in the hearing. Buonaguro billed the $800 he’s required to pay in order to work as a lawyer in the Yukon, but the board rejected that.

And McMahon spent too much time preparing the group’s submission for the hearing, the board said.

“It was not prudent or reasonable for Mr. McMahon to have spent 122.50 hours in total on behalf of the Utilities Consumers’ Group in light of the intervention by the Utilities Consumers’ Group and the issues raised by the application,” wrote the board in their decision.

The group requested $21,653 be covered, but only $16,303 was permitted.

Whitehorse, which hired Brownlee LLP and Garbutt Consulting for their submission, had its costs nearly chopped in half. Kristjana Kellgren, a lawyer, is too inexperienced to be awarded the $175 an hour the city requested she be paid, wrote the board. They lowered her fee to $130 an hour.

The hours filed by the city’s lawyers and consultants was also “not reasonable” and the city “did not file any evidence” of the work performed, wrote the board.

Of the $39,504 claimed by the city, only $25,865 was permitted.

The Yukon Conservation Society had most of its costs rejected. It claimed hours by five different employees in its costs submission. It also tried to have the cost of attending the hearing covered, which is not admissible.

Only $1,820 of the society’s $5,880 submitted cost claims was accepted.

The three-day hearing in April at the High Country Inn allowed the public to investigate Yukon Energy’s plans to build the Mayo B powerhouse. Yukon Energy had to hold the hearing in order to build the project.

Intervenors can submit certain costs they incurred during the hearing and Yukon Energy foots the bill. Along with the intervenors, the Yukon government claimed $279,114 for organizing the hearing.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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