AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 11

On April 27, the Applicants were cross examined about the cost burden of the Heartland line infrastructure and its impact on the competitiveness of Alberta industry and businesses which pay about 80% of this cost. (Alberta industry has indicated it cannot afford the additional costs of all the new transmission projects legislated in Bill 50.)

Montreal-based SNC Lavalin is about to own 100% of AltaLink, and as the parent company, does all of the engineering and construction management work for AltaLink’s transmission infrastructure projects on an untendered basis. Questions were asked about how this situation made it possible to keep costs contained. (For more on SNC Lavalin, AltaLink, and their questionable ties, see

AltaLink indicated they get a guaranteed 9% return on investment, including on all of the money they spend on advertising in an attempt to convince Albertans that all of the new high voltage lines are necessary and that AltaLink listens carefully to what stakeholders have to say. (Up to this point in the Heartland hearing, the Applicants have been criticized for their poor public consultation process.)

HALO (Homes Against Lines Overhead) pointed out many inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Applicants’ spread sheets on proposed construction, contingency and related costs. During cross examination, many examples were cited of the Applicants intentionally underestimating the construction costs for their preferred route (overhead) and overestimating the construction costs for their alternate route in an attempt to make the preferred route appear more favourable. For example, the Applicants have proposed to delay construction of the alternate route by a whole year because they have chosen not to conduct as detailed land access discussions to date with landowners along this route as with landowners along their preferred route. This self-imposed one year delay adds significantly to the proposed construction costs for their alternate route due to inflation.

The Applicants also conceded that their line loss calculations were in error for their preferred route because they had not included the section of the line from the generation source (Keephills) to the Ellerslie Substation. This “error” also made the Applicants’ preferred route appear more favourable.

A landowner living along the proposed alternate route questioned the Applicants’ public consultation process and pointed out many examples where landowners were left confused by missing, incomplete or contradicting information. Landowners along the Applicants’ alternate and preferred routes were even erroneously informed by mail that the routes by their homes were no longer being considered. As well, confusing information or misinformation was provided by the Applicants about the need for the Heartland line and its capacity. The Applicants conceded that many landowners had complained about the Heartland public consultation process.

Several examples of conflict of interest were provided. For example, SVP Leigh Clarke of AltaLink was also Vice President of the Alberta P.C. Party (Calgary) when Bill 50 was passed. AltaLink has been awarded (without any tendering) the Heartland Transmission Project and the Western Alberta Transmission Line (both Bill 50-legislated lines).

With respect to electromagnetic field (EMF) impacts on health, the Applicants were asked why they consistently quote Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO), when both of these organizations have been heavily criticized by health experts. Examples were provided of Health Canada and WHO credibility problems, including conflict of interest associated with heavy lobbying from the electricity transmission industry.

Health Canada indicates that “typical daily” exposures or “typical EMF exposures” or “exposures normally found in Canadian living and working environments” pose no health hazards. The Applicants were asked whether living or working next to an overhead 500 kilovolt power line was “typical” or “normal”. (Since only a small percentage of the population lives or works next to overhead high voltage lines, these situations are obviously not “typical” or “normal”, thereby suggesting that Health Canada’s position is dubious.)

Examples were provided of poor routing decisions without local landowner input. There is little in the facility application that speaks to the “public interest” and how the project will benefit the Alberta ratepayer.

~ by RETA on April 27, 2011.

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