AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 22

May 12 proceedings started off with Cable Consulting International (CCI) discussing their underground report. CCI was commissioned by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) in 2009 and 2010 to conduct a study of the feasibility of burying a section of the Applicants’ preferred route. CCI experts indicated that partial undergrounding of high voltage power lines has been conducted successfully for years in Europe. Cables in Great Britain are buried very close to homes because electromagnetic field levels (EMFs) are so low above these cables.

There are many more direct-buried XLPE cables than duct bank-buried cables in the world, and CCI recommended that an underground Heartland option also be direct buried, where the backfill soil above the buried line would act as a thermal insulator during Edmonton’s cold winter months. CCI pointed out that, although winter air temperatures in Edmonton were cold, the underground temperatures below frost line would be much higher. (As well, underground copper cables, once energized, would generate heat which would counter any colder ground temperatures.)

CCI further indicated that they trusted cable manufacturers when they state that their cables are safe and reliable at Edmonton’s winter ground temperatures. They suggested that underground technology would continue to improve in years to come. CCI indicated that an ideal route for an underground line might not necessarily be the same as an ideal route for an overhead line. (However, the Applicants have proposed identical underground and overhead routes through the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts.)

The rural landowner along the preferred route who had been intimidated by AltaLink land agents in April further discussed their predicament and asked that they be dealt with in a special way, considering the unique circumstances of being surrounded on 2 sides by the Applicants’ proposed power line.

The County of Strathcona presented their panel – Mayor Linda Osinchuk, Strathcona Chief Commissioner, and experts in EMFs and health, routing, and ornithology. Mayor Osinchuk provided details of Strathcona County Council’s 2009 and 2011 resolutions (motions) that recommended burying the Heartland line through densely populated areas (wherever it is built), but that if it wasn’t buried it should be built where it would affect the fewest number of people (the Applicants’ alternate route).

Strathcona Council further asked that the costs of the Heartland line, regardless of the route or technology selected, should be borne by all Albertans, since the Heartland line would benefit all Albertans. Mayor Osinchuk also expressed frustration that neither County Council nor Strathcona residents were asked for their views on the Applicants’ surprise announcement on April 26, 2011 to move their preferred route a short distance farther west. She suggested that unique considerations should be required for construction of the Heartland line, considering the unique magnitude of this project with towers and lines twice as high as any ever built in Alberta.

The County’s transmission line routing expert compared the Applicants’ preferred and alternate routes, indicating there were more pipelines paralleled and crossed, more railway line paralleled, more communication tower encounters, more transmission line crossings and more river crossings along the preferred route. With respect to residents, he indicated there were 342 residences along the alternate route and 5,194 residences along the preferred route, with about 15 times more residents along the preferred route than along the alternate route (based on 2.75 residents per residence). The consultant also provided evidence on the advantages of burying the line from visual impact and health perspectives (EMFs and corona-ionized aerial pollutants). He went on to question the Applicants on their decision to build a double circuit 500kV line from a system reliability perspective.

The County’s bird expert, Dr. Bayne, highlighted that it was illegal under the international Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1916 to destroy migratory birds. This would apply to the killing or “incidental take” of birds that collide with overhead transmission lines. He spoke about the 4 main risks to birds of overhead high voltage lines: changes in habitat (vegetation clearing), collisions with transmission lines and towers, electrocution, and EMF effects on reproduction and development.

Dr. Bayne focused on bird mortality through collision with overhead lines and towers, indicating that between 410 million and 820 million birds die annually in the U.S. colliding with man-made structures including overhead transmission lines. He cited research indicating 124 bird deaths/km of power line/yr and 464 deaths/km of power line/yr., pointing out that other studies report lower mortality rates but do not correct for biases in corpse detection. He stated that daily movement of waterbirds and risk of collision was highest in and along the preferred route because of the numerous wetlands in close proximity, and the greater migration and fog risks. Dr. Bayne concluded that a below ground Heartland option would have the fewest negative impacts on birds in the Edmonton area.

Dr. Blank, a world-renowned EMF and health expert, has conducted extensive research which provides convincing biological evidence of harm to living cells when they start to manufacture stress proteins upon exposure to EMFs. Many of Dr. Blank’s studies have been replicated by other scientists. He discussed research that shows DNA strand breaks at EMF exposure levels considered safe by many health institutions. These DNA effects, including missing DNA repair genes, increase the risk of cancers, including childhood leukemia. He discussed studies on increased risks of Alzheimer’s disease under prolonged EMF exposure, indicating increased risks with increased exposure periods. Dr. Blank considered an EMF level of 1 milligauss as safe, and any level above this as potentially harmful to human health.

Dr. Blank discussed his serious concerns with international health agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) that rely on advice from scientists who are not familiar with the most current research on EMF effects on health. He stated that the WHO is flawed and that they should be warning the public about potential impacts of EMFs on our health. Dr. Blank is also concerned, from an ethical perspective, about the close industrial ties of WHO and the ICNIRP that compromise the value of their opinions. This is particularly important because it is these institutions that transmission facility operators like AltaLink and EPCOR consistently quote as suggesting there are no negative health effects of overhead high voltage lines.

~ by RETA on May 13, 2011.

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