Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans
AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 8
The AUC held a special evening Community Hearing Session in Sherwood Park April 20 to give residents and groups, who might not otherwise be able to attend the daytime hearing proceedings at the Edmonton EXPO Centre, an opportunity to speak.
The session was very well attended with 25 presenters, and the majority of audience chairs full. It would be impossible to give adequate justice to the presentations in a summary because, collectively, they covered so many issues and provided so many reasons for burying the Heartland line. Following, is our humble attempt to simply provide some of the highlights and common themes.
The most common theme was a plea to the AUC panel to direct the Applicants to bury the line. The many benefits of underground high voltage power lines were discussed by many presenters. If there was an additional capital cost to bury the line, it should be borne by all Alberta consumers.
The history of the development of the Greenbelts was described by many presenters. One presenter suggested that previous Alberta Environment Minister Bill Yurko would “turn over in his grave” if he was made aware of plans for an overhead 500kV power line in the Greenbelts, for it was under his authority that the Greenbelts were initially established in the early 1970s to protect the land. Another presenter indicated the TUC signs were erected by the Alberta Government as late as 2007, and pointed out that the Greenbelts were set aside primarily for purposes of protecting agriculture and the environment.
Presenters gave many examples of moving near the Sherwood Park Greenbelt, and being assured as they did their due diligence that additional pipelines might be buried there, but the surface would always remain open as a green space. Many referred to the abundant wildlife along the Greenbelt and how important this green space is aesthetically and how the Greenbelt served as a tool to educate their children about the natural environment and the outdoors. Others discussed the significant property devaluation that would occur should an above ground power line be built next to them, and that they must be adequately compensated if the line is built above ground.
The multitude of health risks associated with an overhead line the size of the proposed Heartland line were raised by many presenters, and particularly highlighted by the Colchester and Westboro School Parents’ Associations. They referred to the fact that young children’s immune systems are not yet fully developed and render them especially vulnerable to the negative health effects of EMFs. Numerous peer-reviewed health studies were referenced. Should the Heartland line be built above ground, there was a very high probability that reduced enrollment in at least two nearby elementary schools would result in school closure because parents would not want to risk their children’s health. One presenter said, “Parents will not put their children in harms way.” The stress caused by the prospects of having a line built above ground next to your home or school was raised as a health concern. “Prudent Avoidance” and the “Precautionary Principle” were referenced by many presenters with respect to health risks of an overhead line.
The hazards were described of building an overhead power line so close to so many buried pipelines in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt, especially because so many homes, schools and daycares are right next to the pipelines. The chance of ignition and explosion of flammable pipeline contents were outlined.
The flawed public consultation process by the Applicants was referenced by presenters, and many examples were cited. One presenter summarized this fact by stating that the Applicants had not been “consulting”, rather they had been “insulting”; and that their public consultation process had been a “giant farce”.
Numerous presenters referred to the vast differences between information provided by the Applicants and others (including RETA) on the health, safety, environmental, property value and aesthetic impacts of overhead high voltage lines. They wondered why AltaLink and EPCOR did not share more information with them in this regard.
A number of presenters discussed the Alberta Government’s role in electricity transmission decisions and spoke about the assault by the government on our democratic rights and freedoms, and the loss of trust in our provincial government.
People spoke passionately about their love for Sherwood Park and Strathcona County, their pride in the community and their commitment through volunteerism over the years. All of that would change with an overhead line the size of the proposed Heartland line which would affect not only nearby residents and businesses, but the entire community of Sherwood Park.
Many pleaded with the AUC panel, and held high hope that the panel would weigh the evidence fairly and make the right decision. The panel was asked to please not rush into a wrong decision, especially since electricity generation and transmission technologies are changing and improving so quickly. The most consistent theme of the evening was that, if the Heartland line was necessary, then it must be buried, both from a common sense perspective and based on all of the evidence. And, if the line was buried, we could proudly tell the world of our achievement, and be cheerleaders of a technology that speaks to our society that cares for people’s health, safety and security of property. See front-page Sherwood Park News article.