AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 17

May 5 started off with the AUC Chairman indicating that the Commission had denied the motion by the Sturgeon Landowners Group to drop the Applicants’ west alternate route from consideration.

RETA experts on pipeline corrosion, underground high voltage power lines, and forensic auditing and accounting presented evidence. RETA submits the Applicants did not present sufficient evidence to justify their estimate that the underground option would cost 1.9 times as much as the overhead option in the Applicants’ preferred route. Through a variety of techniques, and based on other underground projects, RETA experts pointed out a range of savings between $364 million and $460 million for the Applicants’ underground option, suggesting that this option could be built for as little as 15% more than the overhead option. (This is a rounding error within the electrical transmission industry.) This additional cost would result in an additional 5 to 15 cents on the average residents’ monthly power bill.

RETA’s pipeline corrosion expert testified that, although there are a number of mitigation measures available to reduce the risks of building an overhead Heartland line so close to so many pipelines in the Applicants’ preferred route, uncertainty remains. He provided examples of induced electric currents on the pipeline, line-to-ground faults, electrical shock and other hazards. The Applicants’ most recent (April 26) amendment to their preferred route, moving it much closer to the dense network of pipelines running through the Sherwood Park Greenbelt, increases the possible power line/pipeline hazards.

In the evening, 18 RETA members, the majority of whom live along the Applicants’ preferred route, presented their concerns to the AUC which ranged from health to aesthetic impacts of an overhead Heartland line built so close to 5,200 homes (15,000 to 18,000 people). Residents, including 2 young students, spoke about health concerns, based on their reading of studies that report strong correlations between overhead high voltage power line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and many diseases and other health problems. They spoke about particular health concerns for young children whose immune systems are not yet fully developed. Some residents pointed out that their property values would drop significantly and affect their family financial situations.

Residents spoke about safety concerns with the lines so close to their homes, and the impacts on the environment in the Greenbelt.  Almost all presenters spoke about the Applicants’ confusing public consultation process, the frustrations associated with trying to get meaningful information, and the constantly changing infrastructure plans by the Applicant (including the April 26 last-minute move of the Applicants’ preferred route farther west).

Presenters were consistent in their request that the Heartland line be buried, and that the Applicants’ recent moving of the preferred route a short distance farther away from the most densely-populated segment of the Sherwood Park Greenbelt was not good enough.

RETA President Bruce Johnson spoke about many other examples of successfully buried 500kV lines in the world, including in cold climates similar to Canada’s, and provided a list of these to the AUC. He also referenced a pool of over 300 health studies, one-half of which reported increased health risks of prolonged exposure to EMFs.

RETA’s stress expert spoke about the stress brought on by the Applicants’ approach to the public consultation process. Misinformation, mailing errors, changing routing and infrastructure plans throughout the process (e.g., changing tower heights), and uncertainty about all of the reported negative impacts of overhead power lines all have contributed to increased stress levels. He gave examples of the more serious health problems resulting  from stress, which are well reported in the literature and are well understood by the medical community.

~ by RETA on May 6, 2011.

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