Hundreds of individuals, landowner groups, First Nations, Metis groups and private companies are fighting to keep an overhead 500kV electricity transmission line from negatively impacting health, safety, agriculture, property values, rural viewscapes, disruption of livelihoods, and the environment (including wildlife). These and many other negative impacts of overhead power lines have been widely documented in the literature for decades.
The 500-kilometre-long Fort McMurray West Line from Genesee to Fort McMurray was approved in 2009 by the then-Progressive Conservative government which legislated the building of 6 massive high voltage power line projects without any opportunities for the public to challenge the need for them. Although the vast majority of Albertans opposed these lines, the Alberta government ignored their concerns and rammed legislation through (Electric Statutes Amendment Act 2009) to get the contentious lines built. It is well-known that the long-term plans for these lines is to export electricity to the United States at Alberta consumers’ expense; Alberta transmission companies, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) have repeatedly tried to deny this.
ATCO and Quanta Services combined forces to establish Alberta PowerLine which was selected in 2013 (under questionable circumstances) by the AESO to design, construct, operate and manage the $1.4 billion Fort McMurray West Line. The consortium has proposed a western route and an eastern alternate route. The Edmonton Sun reports that a long list of concerned groups and individuals “have objected to some aspect of the route (ATCO’s preferred western route) in advance of AUC hearings that start Oct. 12.” One farmer, Kim Trithart, says, “I’m fighting for my life, I’m fighting for my kids…This is their future. Every time they look out from the living room window they’re going to see that power line.” Farmers and trappers are concerned their livelihoods will be negatively affected, energy companies are worried they won’t be able to work their leases, aboriginal hunters worry about negative impacts on deer and moose, homeowners are concerned about well-documented health impacts of overhead transmission line electromagnetic fields, aboriginal groups have argued that under the constitution they have not been properly consulted, landowners worry about decreased property values and homeowners do not want the ugly transmission towers and lines to ruin their rural viewscapes.
Albertans have been asking for the last 10 years why high voltage transmission lines are not buried like all of our other utilities. Burying transmission lines eliminates or significantly decreases all of the documented negative impacts of overhead lines. Many other Albertans have been arguing for years that many, if not all, of the massive high voltage lines that the PC government legislated be built are not necessary. Alberta’s transmission industry and associated regulation and operation have long been considered to be archaic when compared with other jurisdictions.