The leave to appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal, filed yesterday by Amy and Neil Cunningham, argues that the Alberta Government did not have the jurisdiction to unilaterally designate the Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) as necessary (Edmonton Journal). The argument is based on the premise that the line will be used to export electricity, and therefore falls under federal jurisdiction.
If successful, the lawsuit could force the National Energy Board (NEB) to review both the WATL and the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL). The lawsuit will also argue the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) did not have jurisdiction to require Alberta ratepayers to pay for the new lines or to approve the routes because the matter falls under federal jurisdiction.
The Alberta Government, the AUC, AltaLink and ATCO have argued the two lines are not for export. However, industrial power consumer groups, an independent University of Calgary study, and expert data presented by many others clearly show there is no need for the lines if they were to transmit power only within Alberta.
As well, there is ample evidence from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), Alberta Government 2003 and 2008 promises made public by WikiLeaks, Canada-Northwest-California (CNC) Transmission Options Study, and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council that there have been plans for many years to export electricity from Alberta to the United States. For example, the CNC Transmission Options Study (2006) includes several options for transmitting electricity from throughout Alberta into the U.S. through Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Washington and/or Oregon to California. The AESO was a very active participant in that study, yet claims today that none of the new 500 kilovolt lines in Alberta is for export. The NorthernLights proposal (2008) would see electricity from Alberta exported to Oregon, and then from Oregon to California and elsewhere.
The WATL is also expected to enhance the existing transmission connections between Alberta and B.C., which would also require NEB approval. In summary, the Alberta Government, AESO, transmission industry and AUC have been working closely together for many years on plans to export Alberta electricity to the U.S. and B.C., yet deny this fact today.
Ultimately, the Cunningham lawsuit will be challenging the legality of the Alberta Government’s Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 50), which legislated the building of the WATL, EATL, Heartland Transmission Project, and several other projects.