Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans
AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 5
Darin Watson of AltaLink Blames RETA for Residents’ Concerns about Heartland Line
Under cross-examination by RETA legal counsel on April 15, Darin Watson of AltaLink said it isn’t helpful when groups present information on health that is different than the health information AltaLink presents to the public. He said it’s been difficult for AltaLink to get its message across to residents that overhead high voltage power lines have no negative health impacts when groups like RETA provide information to the public that suggests there indeed is a health risk.
Watson did however admit that proposals, such as the Heartland proposal with its towers up to 77 metres tall, cause stress among those affected; in fact he said, “It’s bloody stressful”. This was following RETA lawyers presenting information from Health Canada that stress (such as that caused by the prospects of a high voltage power line being built next to you) can cause any number of more serious health problems and diseases. The Applicants’ EMF and health expert had also been asked to comment on the following statement by the Canadian Cancer Society:
“Until scientific evidence can clarify the link between exposure to magnetic fields from high-voltage power lines and cancer risk, you may not want your children to play directly beneath them for long periods of time.”
RETA’s lawyer also asked why the Applicants’ modeled EMF readings for the proposed Heartland line were 1.5 times higher right over an underground line than right under an overhead line, when actual and properly-conducted EMF readings taken jointly by EPCOR, AltaLink and RETA on June 24, 2009 were 4.6 times higher under an overhead line than over an underground line.
The Applicants were asked about how particularly vulnerable children with immune systems not yet fully developed are to health impacts of overhead high voltage line EMFs. The Applicants’ EMF and health expert was asked whether he agreed with the Bonneville Power Authority’s health research indicating that about one-half of the 323 different health studies reviewed showed adverse health impacts of overhead high voltage power line EMFs.
Questions were asked about many problems with, and weaknesses in, the Applicants’ public consultation process, including hundreds of residents being informed that the route near them was no longer being considered, when in fact they were next to what the Applicants had short-listed to their preferred and alternate routes.
During cross-examination of the Applicants’ visualization expert (Truescape), questions were raised about the company’s website which provides extremely biased information on the visual impacts of transmission towers and lines. As well, the website focuses on how Truescape’s work for the electricity transmission industry will help “stakeholders to immediately understand the true impact and benefits of the project”, help get “earlier stakeholder agreement” with proposed projects they are concerned about, and helps their clients achieve “smoother passage through siting, consultation and permitting, and faster approvals”. The website even boasts that one of Truescape’s visualizations for a transmission project where residents wanted power lines buried (might that be the Heartland project??) reassured concerned residents that an above ground power line posed “very little difference in visual impact between the existing alignment (no overhead line) and the proposed new above-ground alignment.” Many participants at the hearing found this website information incredulous.
The day ended with RETA legal counsel questioning the Applicants about the numerous ways their proposed project changed in scope, including adding the Ellerslie Substation after landowners had been consulted, and proposed towers changing in maximum height from 60 metres to 77 metres after landowners had been consulted. Such changes in project scope violate several legal requirements by the Alberta Utilities Commission.