Belco and CoH clash over power line costs

A dispute between Belco and the Corporation of Hamilton over who should pay to move power lines underground came before the Court of Appeal.

The corporation argued that the energy firm had to cover the $26,000 cost to move Union Street power underground in line with a 2012 agreement.

But the Supreme Court ruled last year that the request would “fundamentally alter the nature of the power supply to Union Street” and was not covered by the agreement.

Mark Diel, for the corporation, told the Court of Appeal last Friday that the agreement required Belco to relocate any apparatus at no cost to the city.

He argued that moving the power lines underground would amount to the relocation of apparatus, and therefore it was “crystal clear” that the work should be covered.

Mr Diel also said under the agreement Belco had to pay the corporation $30,000 per year for their housing of the city’s energy infrastructure.

He said: “This is the corporation’s land. Why would the corporation accept the pittance of $30,000 a year when every time that it wanted to improve the aesthetics or the supply grid it ended up paying out of pocket?

“This is inconsistent with the rights of the land owner.”

Chief Justice Narinder Hargun raised the concern that a ruling in the corporation’s favour would mean Belco would be forced to put all of the city’s cables underground if the corporation chose.

But Mr Diel said such a request from the municipality would be “completely capricious”.

He added: “Under the authorities, it would be wrong.”

Keith Robinson, for Belco, argued that changing above-ground power lines to underground lines did not fall under the description of “relocation” as different equipment was needed.

He told the court: “What they are saying is we must create the underground apparatus. We cannot relocate that which is not there.”

Mr Robinson argued that the agreement was intended to be used if the corporation wanted to move utilities.

The arguments were closed and a decision is to come.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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