Public Interest Overridden in Power Line Construction – Court of Appeal

RETA Heartland transmission project logoThe Alberta Court of Appeal decision was released today regarding the Shaw family’s appeal of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) November 1, 2011 Heartland decision. The Court of Appeal decision concludes, “For all these reasons, the appeal is dismissed and the interpretation of the Commission (AUC) confirmed.”

RETA AUC logoThe 2011 AUC decision allowed AltaLink, EPCOR and SNC-Lavalin to build the double-circuit 500 kilovolt Heartland Transmission Project above ground close to homes, schools, daycares and environmentally sensitive areas in Edmonton, Strathcona County and Sturgeon County. That decision dismissed any of the evidence and arguments presented by the public, schools, daycares, municipal governments, power consumer groups and businesses about the negative health, safety, property value, environmental, visual, noise, agriculture, pipeline, economic and other impacts of an overhead line. That decision also dismissed any evidence and arguments about the benefits of burying a short section of the Heartland line to eliminate the negative impacts of an above-ground line.

RETA public interest photoToday’s Court of Appeal decision is relatively short. It agrees with the AUC that when the Alberta Government designated the Heartland line and several other lines as “critical transmission infrastructure” in the Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 50), the Legislature assumed sole role for determining that these lines are necessary and assumed sole role for determining what is in the best public interest. Bill 50 also indicates that the AUC shall not refuse an approval of a transmission line labelled “critical” by the government even if the AUC holds the view that a particular line is not needed. In summary, Bill 50 lines are built, whether they are needed or not, and regardless of their negative impacts on the public. “Critical transmission infrastructure” lines include the Heartland Transmission Project, Western Alberta Transmission Line and Eastern Alberta Transmission Line. The Heartland line has been under construction for close to a year, and the routes for the other 2 lines have recently been approved by the AUC.

In Alberta, “public interest” is essentially defined by the Alberta P.C. Government, AUC and the electricity transmission industry as “what’s in the best interest of industry”.

The Edmonton Journal reports that the Shaw family’s lawyer said the court of appeal decision confirms that $4 billion worth of new transmission lines were approved with no cost-benefit analysis. Keith Wilson said, “It’s fiscally irresponsible. It’s very dangerous when you take any consideration of cost out of the system.”

RETA coal-fired power plant photoEPCOR is unable to provide an indication of any customers waiting for power to come from the new Heartland line. Many have complained that no one needs the dirty coal-fired electricity produced at Wabamun to be transmitted by the Heartland line, because the industry the line was to have served is co-generating its own cleaner natural gas-fired electricity. There is also not enough electricity generation capacity to meet the transmission capacity of the double-circuit 500 kilovolt Heartland line. For these reasons, many have characterized the Heartland line as “the line from nowhere to nowhere”.

~ by RETA on December 17, 2012.

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