Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans
Heartland Transmission Project Update
The Sherwood Park News reports that everything is on schedule for a 2013 completion of the controversial 500kV overhead Heartland power line from the Ellerslie Substation to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, even though there are no customers for the electricity.
Residents may have seen survey stakes and tower foundations and partial towers being built over the past few months along different stretches of the 66km line. Once erected, the towers will be taller and more massive than any ever built before in Alberta – up to 77m (253 ft) tall.
According to Tim LeRiche, an EPCOR spokesperson, the environmental portion of the project is an important one. This is an extremely hypocritical statement for EPCOR to make at this point, considering they and AltaLink ignored environmental data presented to them numerous times during their public consultation process and during the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) Heartland hearing last year.
The power line is being built even though almost everyone who appeared at the AUC Heartland hearing last year opposed the overhead line – municipalities, industrial power consumer groups, businesses, RETA, schools, urban homeowner groups, rural landowner groups, and individual homeowners and landowners. The only real supporters of the line being built overhead next to over 15,000 people and many schools, daycares and environmentally sensitive areas are the Alberta P.C. Government, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), the AUC, and of course AltaLink, EPCOR and Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin who will profit from the building of the line because ratepayers fund 100% of the infrastructure costs.
First, the AESO and Alberta P.C. Government grossly overestimated the electricity capacity required in Alberta over the next foreseeable future. Second, the provincial P.C. government passed numerous new laws that removed the requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments of all new high voltage power line projects in Alberta, removed citizens’ rights to review the need for new massive transmission projects, and diminished Albertans’ property rights in relation to power line siting.
Then, the Alberta P.C. Government and the AESO pushed the transmission companies to build the Heartland line along the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts which were set aside in the 1970s to protect the natural environment and agriculture. They tried to convince everyone that the best place to put a new Heartland line was next to one of the more densely populated parts of Edmonton and Sherwood Park.
Then AltaLink and EPCOR conducted one of the most criticized public consultation processes in the history of transmission line applications to the regulator (AUC). And finally, the AUC ignored or dismissed essentially every argument any hearing intervener submitted who was opposed to the overhead line. Arguments that revealed documented negative impacts of overhead high voltage power lines on health, safety, the environment, property values, agriculture, livestock, tourism, aircraft, pipelines, the overall economy and aesthetics were dismissed by the AUC. The AUC also dismissed the data and expert testimony submitted that indicated the line could be buried for 20km for only about 15% more in capital cost than an overhead line, and less than an overhead line if you combine the capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the life of the line. Premier Alison Redford even personally interfered politically with the AUC process, supporting the need for the Heartland line to be built above ground.
Numerous appeals (including to the courts) of the AUC decision to let the overhead Heartland line be built have been filed. All of the appeals submitted directly to the AUC have been dismissed by the AUC. Several appeals to the courts have yet to be heard.
And now, the Alberta P.C. Government, the AESO, AltaLink and ATCO Electric are forcing other unnecessary high voltage power lines legislated in Bill 50 on Albertans, including the Western Alberta Transmission Line, Eastern Alberta Transmission Line and numerous lines that are part of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement Project.