The most revealing evidence filed at the hearing on April 29 was by a rural landowner along the Applicants’ preferred route who was approached by one of AltaLink’s land agents on April 16 with an offer of compensation to place 5 power line towers on the family’s farm. The towers would be placed on 2 sides of the family home, and because they would be more than 150 metres from the actual house, AltaLink refused to buy out the farm, which had been the family’s preference. (AltaLink has arbitrarily selected 150m as some “magic” threshold distance, and only if at least one of the proposed towers is built within this distance, and it must be on your property, will they consider a buy out.)
The land agent, who works for Standard Land, had used a number of intimidation tactics in an attempt to get the family to sign away some of their land rights. Among other comments, the land agent had said that AltaLink had the support of the Premier and the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, that the AUC had already made their minds up that the line would be built in this location, that the western alternate route was nothing more than a bureaucratic optics show, that it was only a requirement that AltaLink had to fulfil, and that ultimately if the family did not sign and take the $10,000 offered, it wouldn’t be available when the AUC made its decision. See this Edmonton Journal article for details.
AltaLink apologized at the hearing for this land agent’s “appalling ” conduct and comments that were way out of line, and indicated the agent had been terminated from working for AltaLink. Any other landowners this land agent had contacted would be interviewed to determine how widespread this type of approach might have been. The cross examining landowner asked AltaLink if it would be willing to withdraw its facility application if it was determined that many other landowners had been similarly intimidated by land agents. AltaLink said “no”.
Although the Applicants admitted that this particular family’s situation was rather unique, AltaLink would not buy them out because of its “150m” policy, and it was worried about setting a precedent if they did buy them out. AltaLink suggested that if the family was concerned about their property depreciating in value, they could always sell it fairly soon in order to avoid any additional future property devaluation.
This particular incident highlights generally the very flawed public consultation process conducted by AltaLink and EPCOR , whether it’s land agents using intimidation tactics, the Applicants changing tower heights throughout the process, many changes in segments of both their preferred and alternate routes, leading questions during one-on-one consultations, erroneous mailouts, and misinformation or confusing information provided to stakeholders.
A rural landowner who lives along the Applicants’ alternate route raised concerns about proposed towers being built in front of his family’s home, and the negative impacts of an overhead line that close to a number of environmentally sensitive areas (wetlands and mature forest).
HALO (Homeowners Against Lines Overhead) asked for more background pipeline data from the Applicants because of their concern the Applicants were attempting to characterize the pipeline activity within the Applicants’ alternate and preferred routes as similar, when in fact the number, size of pipelines and hazards of contents in the preferred route were many-fold those in the alternate route. HALO also pointed out several additional errors in the Applicants’ costing and infrastructure data.
The Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta’s (IPCAA) lawyer continued cross examination about financial accountabilities associated with the Heartland line. He asked about the very close working relationship between AltaLink and the AESO, especially regarding costing of proposed new lines including the Heartland line; and asked how a 60% cost escalation for the Heartland project between January and September 2010 was possible.
AltaLink admitted that some landowners and other stakeholders are concerned about the connection between Montreal-based SNC Lavalin and AltaLink (SNC Lavalin owns 100% of AltaLnk), considering the fact that SNC Lavalin conducts all of the engineering and construction management work for AltaLink at higher consultants’ fees. The IPCAA also raised concerns about possible “wolf-packing” that might be taking place by AltaLink’s parent company (stacking more people on a project than are required).
For more on SNC-Lavalin, AltaLink, and their questionable ties around the world, see this link .