Heartland Power Line Hearing – Final Arguments

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearing into the Heartland Transmission Project (HTP) facility application by AltaLink and EPCOR (the Applicants) to build a double circuit 500 kilovolt transmission line took place from April 11 to May 18, 2011. Evidence was heard during 26 days over a 6-week period, which is one of the longer hearings ever held in Alberta on an electricity transmission line application. Thousands of pages of evidence were filed and thousands of pages of  transcripts were prepared. You may read these at the AUC website, or read the summaries which appear earlier (below) on RETA’s home page.

Final written arguments by the Applicants and interveners were due June 20, 2011. As one of many interveners that opposes this project as submitted by AltaLink and EPCOR, RETA has filed its final written arguments on behalf of its many members who would be directly and adversely impacted, as well as on behalf of the many other RETA members who strongly support RETA’s position and arguments. RETA currently has well over 8,000 registered members.

We encourage you to read RETA’s final arguments here. Briefly, we agree with the many other interveners who argue that a 500kV Heartland line is not needed. The Applicants, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and the Alberta Government have failed to show, at the AUC hearing or to the public, that this line is needed. In fact, the Applicants plan on energizing the Heartland line to only 15% of its capacity to 2027, and after that to only 30% of its capacity. Perhaps only 1 or 2 of the 9 tar sands upgraders initially planned might actually be built in the Industrial Heartland, and ironically, any that are built would co-generate their own electricity and not require the proposed Heartland line to transmit dirty coal-fired electricity from Wabamun.

RETA also argues that the Applicants failed to conduct an appropriate public consultation process under AUC rules. During the hearing, almost every intervener that represented a landowner interest provided example after example of how AltaLink and EPCOR failed to adequately consult with them. Tower heights were changed, preferred and alternate routes were changed, there were mail out errors, many landowners were not even consulted, consultation forms started off with very leading and biased comments, critical information was withheld from landowners, some landowners were intimidated, visual simulations of the towers and lines were misrepresented, baseline environmental data and other public input was ignored, and neighbours were pitted against one another by the Applicants.

The Applicants failed to put forward sufficient evidence on routing. Their preferred and alternate routes were selected on the basis of desk-top analyses and predetermined biases. The Applicants did not statistically weight any of their selection variables or metrics, which means variables like short-term soil compaction impacts during construction are weighted equally with the impacts on thousands of households throughout the 60-year life of the line. The Applicants recommend building an above ground line with towers up to 77m tall (the tallest anywhere in Alberta) next to 5,200 households (over 15,000 people), an elementary school, a daycare centre, many other businesses and many environmentally sensitive areas. AltaLink and EPCOR could not have selected a worse location with greater impacts…even if they had tried.

As well, the Applicants failed to put forward sufficient evidence on the most appropriate and cost-effective underground option. They intentionally and significantly inflated the costs of partial undergrounding, by including only an underground option with construction and operation failure rate standards many times that of their above ground option. In fact, they “gold-plated” the underground option in their facility application to intentionally make it appear less attractive compared to their above ground option. RETA experts provided evidence that, rather than a doubling of the costs to bury the line as suggested by the Applicants, the capital cost could be only 15% higher than an overhead option. And, when you combine capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the 60-year life of the line, an underground line would be less costly than an overhead line.

On the basis of the above, and many other reasons, RETA has requested that the AUC deny the HTP facility application.

Should the AUC decide they have sufficient evidence to make a decision on routing, which RETA does not believe to be the case, then RETA requests that the line be buried whenever it is built close to homes, schools, daycares, hospitals and environmentally sensitive areas.  A buried line:

  1. eliminates the electrical field and reduces the magnetic field through phase cancellation,
  2. reduces the negative health impacts of an overhead line to almost zero,
  3. is safer because it can’t electrocute people or animals,
  4. is safer because 77m-tall towers and lines can’t fall over in storms,
  5. does not cause nearby pipeline corrosion or hazardous induced currents in pipelines,
  6. does not lower adjacent property values,
  7. is not an eyesore,
  8. does not buzz or hum,
  9. does not negatively affect tourism,
  10. does not kill thousands of birds annually through collision,
  11. is more reliable,
  12. has lower maintenance costs,
  13. is more efficient and has lower transmission loss costs, and
  14. can be buried for almost the same capital cost as an overhead line.

Finally, in the event the AUC approves the application as filed , RETA submits that impacted homeowners, landowners, schools and businesses should be fairly compensated such that none of these is out-of-pocket.

RETA strongly believes that the AUC has sufficient evidence to deny the Heartland Transmission Project facility application as filed and amended prior to, during and following the hearing. AltaLink and EPCOR cannot be permitted to negatively impact so many people, businesses, schools, and environmentally sensitive areas.

If this line is approved, it must be noted that the Heartland line was characterized throughout the hearing by the Applicants, interveners, and the Commission as the largest project ever to be built in Alberta. RETA submits that unique projects and their impacts require unique solutions. In the event it is approved, the Heartland line must be buried when it is built near people and environmentally sensitive areas.

~ by RETA on June 23, 2011.

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