In follow up to RETA’s earlier post on David McIntyre’s discovery of dozens of dead ducks under a newly-built AltaLink 240 kV transmission line north of Pincher Creek, McIntyre is more recently quoted as saying, “The land beneath the lines looks like an avian slaughterhouse.” (Edmonton Journal).
He went on to say, “It seems apparent that the new lines have, within a very short period of time, killed hundreds of ducks due to high-speed, bone-breaking collisions” with the power line. In addition to the ducks, McIntyre also found at least one Canada goose and a gray partridge underneath the AltaLink line.
AltaLink did not report the bird deaths to Alberta Environment & Sustainable Resource Development until after McIntyre made the information public. The Alberta Government has since sent a wildlife biologist to the site to investigate. McIntyre indicated that it appeared the birds were killed over an extended period of time because there were freshly killed ducks, and skeletal remains of others that were killed some time ago. He expressed concern about where the high voltage line was built – right in between a migratory bird staging area in the Oldman River valley and reservoir, and a grain feeding area.
An AltaLink public affairs spokesperson said the power line received all of the necessary approvals – including an environmental assessment – by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). This response from AltaLink highlights a very serious weakness in the entire approval process for the construction of new high voltage power lines in Alberta.
Under pressure from the electricity transmission industry in Alberta, the Alberta Government quietly passed the Environmental Assessment (Mandatory and Exempted Activities) Regulation in April 2008 that exempted all high voltage power lines from the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). From April 2008 and on, it is at the sole discretion of the AUC to determine how much or how little environmental information even needs to be submitted by companies like AltaLink as part of their applications to build new lines. As well, since 2008, very few of the requirements under the Alberta Environmental Protection Guide for Transmission Lines (1994) need to be followed, including conservation and reclamation approvals or any public input on environmental concerns prior to construction of new lines.
What this means is that, since 2008, very limited environmental information has been required of the electricity transmission industry by the AUC. This makes sense, considering the AUC is funded by the electricity transmission industry that it is supposed to regulate. This is essentially like letting the fox guard the hen house. As a result, the assessment of potential environmental impacts of new high voltage power lines in Alberta is extremely lax at best, to non-existent at worst.
This is but one more example of the rapidly diminishing rigor with which industrial development in Alberta is being scrutinized from an environmental impact perspective. Over the past few years, the Alberta Government has handed over the responsibility of environmental approval and monitoring to the industries that, by law, the government should be regulating.
See this link for information on the many benefits of burying high voltage power lines – which includes not killing birds.