Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans
AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 23
The Colchester School Parents Association expressed concerns at the May 13 proceedings about the proposed Heartland line being built so close to their elementary school (105 metres from the power line ROW). They spoke about the history of the school, initially a loghouse school in 1898, a newer structure built in 1938 and finally the current school built in 1958. The school has been and continues to be not only a school but a community centre for many activities.
Parents are worried about the potential health risks to their children who are particularly vulnerable because their immune systems are not yet fully developed. Parents had recently been surveyed, and 95% indicated they would pull their children out of the school if an overhead Heartland line was built. This would result in Colchester School closing down, and parents wondered which other schools their children would be bused to, or whether there were even enough spaces available in other schools.
Those parents with special needs children are very concerned about the school being closed down because Colchester is one of only 2 schools in Strathcona County with special classes for their children. A 9-year-old student expressed her concern about either getting sick by staying in Colchester School after an overhead line was built or being forced to move to another school and lose all of her friends. Parents are unanimous in their request to get the power line buried by the school. Even if one or more of the towers were moved a bit further away from the school, parents still insist on the line being buried instead.
Lawyers representing rural landowners along the Applicants’ preferred route questioned the Department of National Defence on its 3.2-kilometre setback requirements from a radio receiver site, which means the proposed Heartland line would be built too close to several farmers. Two existing high voltage power lines situated much closer to the DND radio receiver site had apparently not caused any radio interference to date.
A panel of businessmen, business and industry representatives, and Sturgeon County residents expressed concerns about the negative socio-economic impacts of building the Heartland line and other 500kV lines legislated by Bill 50. Following are some of their comments. Landowners have been told to “take the hit” by having the Heartland line situated on their land for the greater public good. What a waste to have the new Heartland Substation built on prime agricultural land which could be producing food.
This is another financial transfer from Alberta to Quebec – AltaLink’s parent company is SNC-Lavalin centred in Montreal. (For more on SNC Lavalin, AltaLink and their questionable ties, see https://retasite.wordpress.com/category/snc-lavalin/ .) The Heartland line and other planned 500kV lines are not needed or at minimum are overbuilds that will cost Albertans and Alberta business and industry billions of dollars. The Alberta Government, the AESO and transmission facility owners have not had to justify why all of these new lines are necessary. Bill 50 simply legislated that they be built.
The transmission part of our monthly electricity bills will increase significantly, and because industry pays the lion’s share of transmission costs, many companies will be forced to “go off the grid” and generate their own electricity, if they are able. This will leave remaining businesses, industry and residents to pay an even higher proportion of the overall provincial transmission costs, forcing some industry and business to leave Alberta and locate in other provinces where electricity prices are lower. Electricity bills for an Alberta-based steel manufacturer are 1.6 to 2.2 times higher than for its major competitors located in other provinces and the U.S.
The Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta indicated the transmission component of our monthly power bills will triple by 2017. For many businesses like the value-added food processing industry, competition from Europe and the U.S. is forcing Alberta companies to become as efficient as possible, which means they need to automate. Automation invariably uses more electricity and if electricity bills keep increasing in Alberta, companies either have to shut down or move somewhere else.
The Alberta Food Processors Association, representing 223 companies, has surveyed its members who have indicated that monthly power bills comprise rising percentages of their total operating costs. The AFPA estimates that hundreds of jobs will be lost in Alberta as owners look to relocate outside Alberta where electricity costs are lower. This could be significant considering that currently about 27,000 people in Alberta are employed in this $11 billion (Alberta alone) industry. The panel will continue May 16.