We’ve just received word that Honourable Madame Justice Acton has dismissed RETA’s application for Judicial Review of the Alberta Infrastructure Minister’s consent to permit AltaLink, EPCOR and SNC-Lavalin to build the overhead Heartland power line in the Sherwood Park and Edmonton Greenbelts.
You may recall that we had submitted the application for Judicial Review early last year and were scheduled to make our presentation to the court last November; however, EPCOR had asked for a postponement of the court proceeding because they were not prepared. The court proceeding eventually took place January 15 and 16, 2013. (It’s important to note that RETA was the Applicant and the Alberta Minister of Infrastructure was the Respondent.)
The remedies that RETA was seeking from the Judicial Review included: an order quashing the Minister’s consent to build the line in the Greenbelts, a declaration that the Minister’s consent was null and void because it contravened the 1974 Regulations establishing the Greenbelts, and an order halting all further construction of the line in the Greenbelts.
Among the many grounds upon which our Judicial Review application was argued are the following: the Minister’s decision provided either no reasons or inadequate reasons for his consent, the Minister or his designate did not have jurisdiction to give consent to construction of the line in the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts (Restricted Development Areas), the Minister deferred entirely to reasons given by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) for approving construction of the line which is an unauthorized subdelegation of his authority, and the Minister’s decision was unreasonable.
Although Madame Justice Acton agreed with RETA that the Minister of Infrastructure gave no reasons for his consent to construction of the Heartland line in the Greenbelts, she indicated no reasons were required. She disagreed with RETA’s argument that the Minister could not delegate such an important consent decision to a department staff member. As well, she disagreed with our argument that the decision to consent was unreasonable based on the 1974 Regulations that set the Greenbelts aside for agricultural purposes and protection of the environment.
One of our primary arguments, that Madame Justice Acton disagreed with, was that one section of the 1974 Regulations which gives the Infrastructure Minister his authority states the Minister may give his written consent for only those uses of the Greenbelt land surface which are compatible with the retention of the environment of the areas for agricultural purposes or the propagation of plant or animal life and do not have a detrimental or destructive effect on the land surface within the areas. We had argued that the massive double circuit 500 kilovolt Heartland line with towers up to 77m tall (253 feet) is certainly not compatible with the preservation of the environment of the Greenbelts and will most certainly have detrimental and destructive effects on the land and associated environment within the areas.
In any event, our application for Judicial Review has been dismissed. Where do we go from here? As residents of Strathcona County and southeast Edmonton are aware, AltaLink, SNC-Lavalin and EPCOR have been busy building the Heartland towers (several of which are shown in a photo accompanying this blog), and we are running out of options to stop this unnecessary power line. Lattice towers are rapidly being completed and they have been boring huge holes and removing tons of dirt for the monopole foundations.
It’s clear that the line will be completed and, as AltaLink and EPCOR indicated in their application to the AUC, it will be energized to 15% of its total capacity (i.e., 85% of its capacity will sit unused). We will be exploring our options, on behalf of our members and the many thousands of residents and businesses who remain opposed to this massive overhead line. We have previously discussed the possibility of a future class action lawsuit or lawsuits, based on a number of negative impacts of the line, including property devaluation and health. We will keep you posted. (See this Canadian Press article for media coverage of the court decision and fallout.)
If anyone continues to be upset about the overhead Heartland power line, you may wish to contact your MLA; the Honourable Ken Hughes, Alberta Minister of Energy; and/or Premier Alison Redford, since it is the Alberta Government that insisted this overhead line be built in our Greenbelts. Bill 50 (Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009) and subsequent decisions by Premier Redford left no doubt that the Alberta Government wanted this line built.