The province will relax air quality regulations in an attempt to reduce looming Nova Scotia Power rate hikes.

Premier Darrell Dexter announced Thursday that the 2010 mercury emissions cap of 65 kilograms/year will be pushed back to 2014 — a move that will allow NSPI to burn cheaper, dirtier coal for four more years.

NSPI will appear before the province’s energy regulator this fall to ask for a rate increase — 12 per cent for residential ratepayers and 18 per cent for industrial consumers. NSPI­ spokesman Dave Rodenhiser said Thursday’s announcement will reduce that request.

“To the degree that we can, we want to do what we can to reduce that burden,” said Dexter.
Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks, however, said the government did not consult NSPI as to how much the change would save ratepayers.