The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearing on AltaLink’s Western Alberta Transmission Line starts today in Red Deer, 5 years following a scandal that saw the regulatory body of the day spying on landowners opposed to the north-south transmission line (Edmonton Journal).
The hearing is already off to a rocky start, with one of the interveners filing a motion for adjournment with the support of numerous other groups, including ENMAX, because of a recent Alberta Court of Appeal decision. That decision, in response to an appeal filed by Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw, said, “it is imperative in the interest of certainty and consistency” that the court consider the scope of the definition of “public interest” that the AUC must consider in making its decisions.
The appeal, not yet heard, is in response to the controversial decision made last November by the AUC to permit AltaLink, SNC-Lavalin and EPCOR to build an above-ground 500kV Heartland Transmission Line next to over 15,000 people, several schools and daycare centres and many environmentally sensitive areas. That decision essentially ignored the public interest, following weeks of expert testimony by homeowners, homeowner and landowner groups, municipalities, industrial power consumer groups, various businesses and RETA on the negative socio-economic, health, safety, property value, environmental, visual, aircraft and agriculture effects of an overhead Heartland line.
The Western Alberta Transmission Line is one of several 500kV power lines legislated by the Alberta Government pursuant to the controversial Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009. The Heartland line was the first of numerous Bill 50 lines to have its route approved by the AUC, which no longer has a role to play in determining whether some of these lines, dubiously labelled “critical transmission infrastructure” by the province, are actually needed because the Alberta Government unilaterally took away the public’s right to review need through the AUC hearing process.
About 200 interveners are lined up to present their objections to the overhead 357-kilometre-long 500kV DC line from Genesee to Langdon. One of those opposed is Joe Anglin, longtime opponent to the Bill 50 transmission lines, arguing they are expensive overbuilds that will result in higher power bills for Alberta homeowners, businesses and industry (see Wildrose news release). Anglin is now the new Wildrose MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, having campaigned on the transmission line issue during the recent provincial election which saw the Wildrose party become the Official Opposition.
It will be interesting to follow whether the AUC actually considers the “public interest” during this particular hearing.
Many Albertans are also upset that the Western Alberta Transmission Line, as well as most other AltaLink power lines, will be constructed by Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin which owns 100% of AltaLink. SNC-Lavalin is in the midst of a major corruption probe (fraud, bribery, money-laundering) over its international work in countries like Libya, Tunisia, Syria, India and Bangladesh. SNC is also being sued by numerous parties over allegations of misinforming investors about the financial status of the company. See “Making Money by Making Friends” and this link for more on SNC-Lavalin’s and AltaLink’s corporate conduct.