Bill 8 Attacks Property Rights and Weakens Public Interest

Daryl Bennett of Action Surface Rights says Bill 8 – Electric Utilities Amendment Act, 2012 –  is “another attack on property rights and it weakens the public interest criteria that were in place before” (Vauxhall Advance).

Bill 8 is meant to repeal Bill 50 – Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 – passed by the Alberta P.C. Government that gave Cabinet the unilateral authority to determine which high voltage power lines in Alberta are “critical”, and to get them built without any public input on whether the lines are even necessary. If Bill 8 is passed, it will again be the AUC’s (Alberta Utilities Commission) job to hold public needs hearings on all future high voltage lines, even those the government thinks are “critical”.

While this amendment may appear to be positive for landowners and property rights advocates, the devil is in the detail and even if it is passed, it may well be a hollow victory for critics of Bill 50. If one looks at past AUC decisions on applications by electricity transmission companies to determine whether a specific newly proposed power line was needed, almost every single application by companies like AltaLink, ATCO, and EPCOR has been approved by the AUC as being necessary. Even if members of the public intervened in past AUC hearings opposing the need for specific new lines, they lost, and the only issue they might have had some input on was the routing of the line…and even that process was and remains rigged in favour of the applicants’ preferred route.

Using AltaLink’s 240kV double circuit Picture Butte to Etzikom Coulee Transmission Project as an example, Bennett says, “AltaLink manipulates the process, they don’t conduct proper consultations…Once the landowner knows the line is coming across their land its often too late for him to even bring the public interest up…I would think that finding the needs assessment and the routing should be more coordinated with the landowners because what happens now is they decide the need for a power line in Alberta two years before they even determine what the routing is going to be. Nobody shows up to oppose the need and when it finally goes through their land, that they’re on the route, they say ‘Oh well it’s not in the public interest, there’s no need for the line’. They’re told that (the needs) hearing was held two years ago and nobody showed up of course because they didn’t know it was going on their land.”

Bennett also says, “We would like to see that the AUC actually has to go through a formal evaluation of what the ‘public interest’ is.” RETA could not agree more because, up until now, it appears that the AUC’s definition of “public interest” is “what’s best for transmission companies” – not “what’s best for the public”.

Action Surface Rights’ mission statement is, “To work together as a group, regarding rights, responsibilities and concerns for landowners; and to work together for long-term protection of our lands and the environments we live in.” It is “an organization of landowners dedicated to helping fellow landowners understand and navigate the maze of government and industry processes when dealing with the energy sectors, whether it be oil/gas, transmission lines, or wind power in the Province of Alberta”.

~ by RETA on November 9, 2012.

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