Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks refused to say whether the government would consider loosening regulations to reduce a looming power-rate hike.

According to Nova Scotia Power Inc., restrictions on mercury in fuel necessitate a 12 per cent rate hike for residential users and an 18 per cent increase for businesses in 2011.

NSPI spokesman David Rodenhiser said the corporation has to operate within the regulatory framework set by the provincial government, but generating greener energy costs the company another kind of green.

“It’s our role to take whatever regulatory environment that the government sets and produce electricity meeting those regulatory requirements at the most cost-effective way to our customers,” said Rodenhiser.

Estabrooks said there has been pressure from various groups to reduce environmental targets in order to lessen the impact on energy consumers. But he said only cabinet can decide that.

“I won’t give you a yes or no on that,” said Estabrooks yesterday. “I’m ... a cabinet minister and I’m not representing what my colleagues would make in a decision of that nature.”

Rodenhiser also refused to speculate on the matter.

“We wouldn’t go on record prejudging or hypothesizing about what the government might do,” said Rodenhiser.

Estabrooks met with representatives from business and social groups to discuss the possible rate hikes.

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