AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 24

On May 16, the City of Edmonton, County of Parkland and City of Spruce Grove presented evidence at the hearing.

City of Edmonton Councillor Karen Leibovici spoke about the September 2009 Motion passed by Council that all 500kV power lines within the City must be buried or if not buried they should be built where they have the least impact on residents. (The Applicants’ preferred route affected the greatest number of residents.) As well, the City’s Motion stated that the citizens of Edmonton should not disproportionately subsidize the costs of such a line. She went on to say the City and RETA had worked together to present expert testimony on health effects of overhead power line EMFs, stress, property devaluation, visual impacts, environmental impacts, benefits of burying the line, and undergrounding costs.

Councillor Leibovici discussed the negative impacts of an overhead Heartland line on the North Saskatchewan River, the City’s “crown jewel”, and indicated the river valley was protected by City bylaw. She said adding a third overhead high voltage line in the Ellerslie community would be too much of an assault on people’s visual senses, and that a line of massive towers would circle the south and east sides of Edmonton “like a giant electrified fence”. Monster lines with towers twice as high as any built before in Alberta were never contemplated.

She stated that the Edmonton Greenbelt (TUC) was meant for transportation and utilities that directly benefited Edmonton; whereas the proposed Heartland line would not serve Edmonton. She indicated that burying the line would eliminate all of the negative impacts of an overhead line. City planners discussed a recently conducted Angus Reid survey that reported 43% of Edmontonians surveyed are of the view that the Heartland Project should bypass Edmonton, 32% feel the line should be built in the Greenbelt (TUC) but it should be buried, and only 16% believe the line should be built above ground in the Greenbelt.

Cross examination of the Edmonton panel focused on establishment of the Restricted Development Area (Greenbelt) legislation in the 1970s to protect the land, and subsequent policy changes by the Alberta Government focusing on transportation and utilities.

Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec indicated the County agrees with the Applicants’ preferred route, suggesting that’s what the TUCs were developed for. Parkland had passed a Motion that the Heartland line should be buried when feasible. He discussed the potential impacts of an overhead line on the Wagner Natural Area, which is legislatively protected.

The City of Spruce Grove discussed the negative impacts an overhead line would have on two proposed residential developments by Beaverbrook Pioneer Ltd. and Qualico Developments West Ltd. An overhead line would ruin the view and landscape for several thousand future residents within 800m of the proposed line and would decrease values of future properties. Concerns were expressed about de-watering of bore holes for tower foundations because of the high water table in the area. A Spruce Grove planner said if the alternate route is selected, the line should be buried by Spruce Grove.

Don Rigney, Mayor of Sturgeon County and past Chair (and current Board member) of the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA) spoke about the changing economic realities associated with need for the Heartland line. He pointed out that when the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) developed its power plan in 2008 there were plans for 5 to 9 bitumen upgraders in the Industrial Heartland – now there is only one. Bitumen upgraders are uneconomical in Alberta and that’s why tar sands companies are shipping the bitumen south to the U.S. through pipelines.

He discussed how much more efficient and environmentally friendly natural-gas-fired and co-generated electricity are than coal-fired electricity, and there was no need to transmit dirty coal-fired electricity from Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland.  He indicated the AIHA electricity demand forecasts were 12% to 50% of those estimated by the AESO. The AIHA had met with Alberta Energy and requested a re-evaluation of AESO’s demand forecast, but discovered that the government and the AESO were working closely together and were not willing to review need for all of these new lines based on changing economic scenarios.

Mayor Rigney concluded by saying that approval of the Heartland line was not in the public interest and would hurt the goals of the AIHA. He asked the AUC to stop this process and request a review of the AESO’s Needs Identification Document.

~ by RETA on May 17, 2011.

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