AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 4

Under cross-examination by RETA’s legal counsel on April 14, AltaLink and EPCOR staff and experts made it clear that their estimated cost of burying part of the Heartland line is the determining factor in recommending against it. Cost is more important to the Applicants than addressing the concerns of about 15,000 residents (5,200 homes). (RETA’s written submission estimates that a partially buried Heartland line would cost less than 15% more than an entirely above-ground line, but that over the life of the line when all costs are considered, a buried line is far less costly.)

Although the Applicants have repeatedly indicated they are supportive of making affected landowners “whole again” from a compensation perspective, it is clear they would consider compensating only landowners who were forced to move because the proposed Heartland line would run extremely close to their homes. Today, they indicated that making the greatly impacted landowners “whole again” would include compensation based on replacement value.

AltaLink staff agreed that all Alberta electricity ratepayers would benefit from the Heartland line, that Alberta ratepayers are at financial risk for the costs of building the line, that AltaLink and EPCOR get a guaranteed financial return from the line, and that the thousands of residents who live near the line end up paying more for the line than other Albertans due to property devaluation. The Applicants’ appraisal expert admitted that the most significant property devaluation in his report was for a home next to a 500kV power line.

Regarding impacts of an overhead Heartland line on pipeline corrosion and explosion hazards (e.g., lightning strikes, induced electrical currents), the Applicants stated emphatically that they could guarantee zero risk with proper pipeline mitigation.

Although overhead high voltage power line noise (humming, buzzing, crackling, hissing) is loudest during foul and moist weather conditions, the Applicants assessed anticipated noise from an overhead Heartland line during only fair weather conditions. As well, the Applicants conducted only a partial noise assessment for the proposed Ellerslie Substation.

With respect to visual impacts, the Applicants did not conduct a visual impact assessment of the proposed line even though concerned residents have described the towers (up to 77m tall) as “monstrous”, “mammoth” and “a blight on the landscape”. The Applicants’ consultants conducted visualizations which are much less rigorous than a visual impact assessment, and often distort the true visual impacts (e.g., use of wide angle lens to make transmission towers appear very small in the distance).

~ by RETA on April 14, 2011.

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