AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 10
AltaLink started off April 26 with a last-minute amendment to their preferred route. They filed new maps suggesting they are willing to consider moving their preferred route 100m to 200m to the west within a short section of the Sherwood Park Greenbelt (East TUC). This would get the line farther away from some homes, but put it closer to others, as well as closer to the pipelines that already run through the Greenbelt.
Many hearing participants were surprised by this proposal partway through the hearing. The Applicants have changed their minds on infrastructure and routing options along their preferred route throughout the public consultation process, and now even during the AUC hearing. For example, the Applicants had first proposed 60-metre-tall lattice towers during the public consultation process, then 73-metre-tall towers following the public consultation process, and most recently 77-metre-tall towers within their facility application. It has been difficult for stakeholders to know exactly what the Applicants are proposing, and what they might propose next – almost like pulling rabbits out of a hat.
Following this surprise move by the Applicants, cross examination continued by lawyers representing rural landowners along the Applicants’ preferred route. The Applicants were asked why last-minute changes have been made to the routing that impact some landowners less but others more. For example, one landowner would initially be told that the line would be about 1 mile from them. Then another landowner who did not want the line closer to them would convince the Applicants to move the proposed routing further away from them, but now bringing the line closer to the first landowner. This amendment to the routing would be done without the first landowner’s knowledge and without any consultation with this landowner. The Applicants were asked how they subjectively figure out which landowner’s concerns supersede other landowners’ concerns.
The Applicants conceded that nobody wants these towers and lines on their properties.
Applicants were asked why they did not consider routing the line along existing linear infrastructure (e.g., railways, power lines) such as they had done with their Western Alberta Transmission Line application. Although the Applicants indicated they tried to avoid schools and daycares, their preferred route certainly runs close to numerous schools and daycares. In the case of Colchester Elementary School, the power line right-of-way is just over 100m from the school yard.
Compensation for property devaluation caused by an overhead Heartland line was discussed, with the Applicants making it clear the only case for which they would consider compensation is if the line would be built on someone’s property within 150m of their home. Compensation would not be considered in other cases, even if the line would run within 150m of someone’s home but not on their property. Lawyers also pointed out that the comments made to landowners by the Applicants’ field interviewers during one-on-one consultations were very leading and erroneously suggested very little property value impacts and then for only a short time following construction of the line. (The fact is, many studies show impacts of up to 38% for front-row homes and 16% to 29% for agricultural land. This appraisal showed rural property devaluation up to 91%.)
Cross examination started on the overbuilding of the proposed Heartland line, and will continue on April 27.