May 14, 2016
Renewable Energy Generation Outperforms Fossil Fuels
Recently, Bloomberg reported “Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels. One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce…Government subsidies have helped wind and solar get a foothold in global markets, but economies of scale are the true driver of falling prices.” As solar and wind-powered electricity generation prices fall, installations boom. “Every time global wind power doubles, there’s a 19% drop in cost…and every time solar power doubles, costs fall 24%.” Coal-fired electricity generation is definitely becoming the dinosaur of power production.
March 14, 2015
Overhead Power Lines Kill More Helicopter Occupants
Two men aboard an AS332L helicopter were killed March 6 when they hit a power line and crashed in Mie, Japan (Press TV). The pilot of a Robinson 44 helicopter was killed March 13 when he hit a power line in Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand (Stuff). Read Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for hundreds of additional examples of aircraft and hot air balloon crashes that could have been prevented if power lines were buried like all of our other utilities.
March 4, 2015
More Aircraft Downed by Overhead Power Lines
RETA has recently updated Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines. One of the more recent accidents occurred February 27 north of Ivanhoe, California, where an eyewitness saw a Bell 47G-2A helicopter hit power lines while spraying a citrus grove with insecticide (Visalia Times Delta). The pilot, who was taken to hospital, sustained moderate injuries. Some insecticide was spilled during the crash. These and thousands of other aircraft and hot air balloon accidents could be prevented if power lines were buried like all of our other utilities and communication lines.
March 4, 2015
Power Company’s Lobbying Pays Off
Dominion Resources Inc. lobbied lawmakers and got what they wanted during Virginia’s 2015 legislative session (Associated Press). Among Dominion’s victories are: current electricity base rates locked in for at least 7 years, defeating proposed cap and trade legislation, preserving dirty coal-related tax credits electric utilities can use, and defeating a bill that would have highlighted property devaluation associated with the building of overhead high voltage transmission lines around the town of Haymarket. It’s well known in Virginia that Dominion makes huge donations to powerful lawmakers’ campaigns, and employs full-time highly paid lobbyists to get what they want. Critics say the company’s interests were put first this session over those of its customers, an all-too familiar scenario when it comes to power generating and transmission companies in North America.
March 4, 2015
SNC-Lavalin Forces Garter Snakes Out of Hibernation
Scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin, the company building AltaLink’s transmission lines in Alberta, has forced hundreds of garter snakes out of hibernation in the Delta area of Vancouver when they recently started repair work on the Boundary Bay Dike works near Beach Grove (Global News). SNC was warned before they began the work that there were hibernating snakes in the area, but they went ahead. Staff at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Burnaby have identified at least 3 species of garter snake among the more than 400 snakes from the construction site that have been delivered to the centre so far.
March 3, 2015
Criticism of AltaLink’s Southwestern Alberta Transmission Line Continues
Recent AltaLink information sessions in Cowley and Lundbreck, Alberta attracted residents who are frustrated and angry about new high voltage transmission lines being proposed in the Crowsnest Pass (Pincher Creek Echo). Residents expressed concerns that AltaLink is pitting neighbour against neighbour, wondered whether the proposed Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line is even necessary, and pointed out the new line would ruin the internationally-recognized foothills and mountain landscape. The Livingstone Landowners Group continues to advocate for undergrounding the lines, if they are deemed necessary. Even Wildrose Opposition MLA Pat Stier said “…just when is enough enough?” For more information on the many concerns residents and landowners have about this proposed transmission line, see this link.
Feb. 10, 2015
Opposition to Gateway West Power Line Continues
The Cassia County Gateway West Task Force in Idaho continues its opposition, along with other groups, to the proposed overhead Gateway West high voltage transmission line that would run for about 1,100 miles from Glenrock, Wyoming to Murphy, Idaho (MagicValley.com). Groups are trying to delay the project, hoping that consideration will be given to burying the line. Underground high voltage transmission lines are both economically and technically feasible – in fact, when you combine the capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the life of a line, underground lines can be cheaper than overhead lines.
Feb. 9, 2015
High Voltage Power Line Would Threaten Indian National Park
Wildlife experts are worried an overhead 400 kV transmission line proposed by Power Grid Corporation of India would have negative impacts on the biodiversity of Buxa National Park and Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, India (Times of India). The overhead high voltage line may cause significant damage to tigers, leopards, elephants and 246 species of birds. The state wildlife advisory board will request an Environmental Impact Assessment from a neutral agency.
Feb. 2, 2015
Climate Change Means More Overhead Power Line Outages
As evidenced during the past few years, the number of severe power outages brought on by inclement weather worldwide has increased. A recent study led by John Hopkins University suggests that climate change will result in more power outages, not only in coastal areas but also inland (Baltimore Sun). Overhead power line outages are expensive and dangerous. This is one of the many reasons a growing number of people and local governments around the world is asking that new power lines be buried.
Dec. 26, 2014
Germans Don’t Want Overhead High Voltage Transmission Lines Either
Dozens of protest groups have sprung up in Germany over the proposed 500-mile-long above-ground high voltage direct current transmission line project known as SuedLink (New York Times). The line, referred to by some as the “Monster Line”, has raised concerns over documented health and property value impacts. As well, some businesses are worried about impacts the ugly overhead line would have on their tourism operations. Some residents and businesses located near the proposed line have suggested the line should be buried to eliminate all of the negative impacts of an above-ground line. (Burying high voltage transmission lines is both technically and financially feasible.) Still others have questioned whether the SuedLink line is really necessary at all.
Dec. 17, 2014
Alberta Relies Too Much on Heavily-Polluting Coal
Dr. Joe Vipond of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Ken Hogg, founder of the Alberta Renewable Energy Alliance, wrote in this Edmonton Journal letter, “Amazingly, we (Alberta) are the only province, and one of the very few jurisdictions in North America, without any energy efficiency program.” Unfortunately, federal regulations allow most of Alberta’s coal plants to operate for another 47 years. Alberta is Canada’s leading generator of greenhouse gases because of our reliance on coal-fired electricity generation, coupled with our tar sands development. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment proposes a 10- to 15-year coal phase-out, with renewable energy technologies replacing the burning of dirty coal.
Dec. 5, 2014
Power Info “Inadequate, Insufficient, Unclear, Confusing”
The Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA), Alberta’s electricity watchdog, recently reported that information to Albertans on the cost of electricity is inadequate, insufficient, unclear and confusing (Calgary Herald). The MSA report says electricity providers seldom disclose administration fee charges, which vary widely among companies, and don’t provide comparisons of the “all-in” costs of electricity generation, transmission and distribution. Albertans pay among the highest electricity costs in Canada. NDP electricity critic Brian Mason said, “I don’t think the deregulation of the electricity scheme was ever intended to benefit consumers”.
Dec. 4, 2014
Alberta Electricity System Gone Awry
This Lethbridge Herald editorial points out the sale of AltaLink to an American energy giant paves the way for major electricity export to the U.S. The editorial suggests the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has not done its job of serving Albertans’ best public interests, considering our rising power delivery charges, rate riders and other charges. The editorial concludes, “In the end, it is very possible Albertans will continue to pay the price for a deregulation scheme which has simply not had its desired impacts. The sale of AltaLink, a company which generated profits of over $107 million last year, according to the Alberta NDP, is another example of a system gone awry.”
Nov. 28, 2014
Will AltaLink be Allowed to Kill More Birds?
This letter to the Pincher Creek Echo editor asks whether AltaLink will “be allowed to kill eagles with impunity”. The writer, Doug Smith, is referring to AltaLink’s and the Alberta Electric System Operator’s (AESO’s) proposed Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock Transmission Project in Southern Alberta. Another AltaLink overhead high voltage line recently completed in the same area near Pincher Creek has killed hundreds of birds this year and last year. Unfortunately, even though AltaLink has violated federal legislation in the killing of migratory birds, the transmission company has not yet been charged nor fined.
Nov. 28, 2014
Many More Overhead Power Lines Coming to Alberta
Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) VP of Operations Miranda Keating Erickson says Alberta will need to almost double its electricity transmission capacity over the next 20 years (Canadian Press).
The Alberta electricity transmission industry, the AESO, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) and the Alberta Government have been busy working together to get as many overhead transmission lines approved and built as possible, regardless of whether or not they are needed. The electricity transmission industry in Alberta essentially has a license to print money, as electricity consumers pay 100% of the transmission infrastructure costs plus a minimum guaranteed 9% annual investment return to transmission companies. In Alberta, it is difficult to distinguish between the transmission industry, the electricity operator (AESO) and the electricity regulator (AUC) because they work so closely together to get new transmission infrastructure built.
Nov. 26, 2014
Group Wants Power Line Buried in Iceland
Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, is concerned a new overhead high voltage power line proposed by Landsnet will ruin the experience of the highlands (Iceland Review). The group wants Landsnet to consider burying this and other new high voltage power lines.
Nov. 24, 2014
Opposition to Badger Coulee Power Line Continues
Opposition continues against American Transmission Co.’s and Xcel Energy’s proposed overhead 345kV transmission line from north of La Crosse to northern Dane County, Wisconsin (Waunakee Tribune). In addition to past concerns raised by Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) about negative impacts of the proposed line on the economy, environment, property values and livestock, the two organizations have recently said the environmental impact statement filed with Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission fails to analyze who profits from the line and the economic and environmental costs. They also question the line’s impact on tourism because overhead transmission lines and towers are ugly.
Oct. 6, 2014
Premier Prentice Says Albertans Paying Too Much for Power
Premier Jim Prentice says Albertans are paying too much for electricity and he plans to do something about it (Edmonton Sun). “Clearly, the way the deregulated system has been functioning, we have been paying more for our electricity in my view than we should be, and that’s something I am taking a closer look at.” Many Albertans and businesses have complained that our deregulated electricity generation system has caused some of the highest electricity prices in the country. Power producers (e.g., TransAlta) have also been criticized for manipulating the price of electricity by intentionally shutting down power plants to jack up prices.
Oct. 5, 2014
Helicopters Hit Power Lines, Killing Three and Injuring Three
In 2 separate accidents on October 4, 2014, helicopters hit power lines, causing death and injury. A medical helicopter struck power lines and crashed in Wichita Falls, Texas, killing the patient on board and seriously injuring the 3 crew members on board (News OK). An ultralight helicopter hit power lines and crashed in the Colorado River in Loma, Colorado, killing the 2 adults on board (KJCT8). See Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for hundreds of additional examples of overhead power lines causing aircraft accidents and deaths.
Sept. 24, 2014
AltaLink’s Parent Company Cuts Staff Amid Corruption Scandal
Scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin has cut staff in its Montreal headquarters and possibly in some of its international offices as well (Montreal Gazette). Last month, SNC reported a 13% drop in revenue in Q2 2014. Through the first 6 months of the year, revenue was $3.4 billion, down from $3.8 billion in 2013. The company is still feeling the aftershocks from a multitude of Canadian and international fraud, bribery and money-laundering allegations, charges and arrests.
Sept. 21, 2014
ATCO Calls for Verbal Cross-Examinations on AltaLink Sale
ATCO recently told an Alberta Utilities Commission hearing that the proposed sale of AltaLink by scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin to Warren Buffett’s U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway should be subject to oral cross-examination to protect Alberta electricity consumers from runaway electricity rates (Calgary Sun). ATCO Electricity says there are so many concerns about foreign ownership of the majority of Alberta’s transmission system, and how the extremely high pricetag of the sale will be passed on to Alberta ratepayers.
Sept. 12, 2014
AltaLink Must be Canadian-Owned
Yesterday’s Calgary Sun editorial suggests that the gamble of SNC-Lavalin selling AltaLink to U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway Energy owned by billionaire Warren Buffett just isn’t worth it. The editorial points out that AltaLink, which was built by and paid for by Albertans, serves 85% of Albertans and we can’t let a foreign entity own a utility that is as essential as electricity.
Sept. 12, 2014
Twitter Contest Backfires on AltaLink’s Parent Company
A contest by SNC-Lavalin asking Twitter users to send their best photos of SNC projects backfired when the contest attracted references to the many allegations, charges and arrests surrounding SNC’s multinational corruption scandal (Huffington Post).
Sept. 9, 2014
Residents Worried about Ameren’s New Power Line
Residents in Kirksville and Palmyra are concerned about Ameren’s proposed 100-mile-long 300kV high voltage power line that would run from Palmyra to Kirksville, Missouri (KTVO). They are worried about the many negative impacts that an overhead high voltage line would have on their homes and land.
Sept. 9, 2014
Albertans Suggest Government Buy AltaLink
As the debate continues in Alberta over scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin’s proposed sale of AltaLink to U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway Energy owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, some Albertans who have contacted the Alberta Utilities Commission are proposing that the Alberta Government purchase AltaLink instead (Calgary Herald). RETA has also received the same suggestion from many of its followers. If AltaLink became a public utility, Albertans would benefit from the power transmission revenues rather than a U.S. billionaire. Alberta’s transmission rates are among the highest in Canada with the private sector providing the service, whereas other Canadians’ rates are generally lower with Crown corporations supplying the power and transmission.
Sept. 9, 2014
Landowner Fighting AltaLink in Court
Kurt Kure of Red Deer County is fighting AltaLink and the Alberta Surface Rights Board (SRB) over an SRB order allowing AltaLink to go ahead and build a transmission tower on Kure’s land (Red Deer Advocate). Kure argues that the tower will ruin a site he has picked out for a new home on his land located downstream of the Dickson Dam. The tower is part of AltaLink’s controversial $1.3-billion 350-kilometre-long 500kV Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) that runs from Genesee southwest of Edmonton to Langdon east of Calgary. The WATL will ultimately be used to export electricity out of Alberta.
July 22, 2014
Hot Air Balloon Hits Power Lines and Injures Five
A hot air balloon hit power lines and caught fire July 19 in Clinton, Massachusetts, injuring 5 people with minor to severe burns (Fox News). Witnesses saw 2 separate explosions after the balloon hit the power lines. About 600 National Grid customers were without power. See Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for hundreds of additional examples of overhead power lines causing aircraft and hot air balloon accidents, injury and death.
July 11, 2014
Did AltaLink Power Line Construction Cause Damage to Home?
A Mountain View County resident claims AltaLink’s use of ground-level implosive connectors during construction of a new overhead transmission line has damaged his home and shop (Mountain View Gazette). Norman Fritzler claims the loud noise and vibration has caused stress cracks in his acrylic stucco, cracks in plastic moulding, cracks in his front veranda stonework, nails popping through drywall, and splitting of a drywall ceiling. AltaLink is researching the complaint.
July 11, 2014
Land Users Opposed to More AltaLink Overhead Power Lines
At a June 24 Pincher Creek M.D. Council meeting, the Chinook Area Land Users Association argued against more AltaLink overhead high voltage power lines, part of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement project (Pincher Creek Echo). The Association argued the new lines are not needed and they would negatively impact “The viewscape of the once quiet, picturesque, pristine area of rolling hills set with a background of the majestic Rocky Mountains…”
July 2, 2014
Alberta Utilities Consumer Advocate Not Allowed at Electricity Prices Hearing
The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has turned down a request by the Alberta Utilities Consumer Advocate (AUCA) to participate in a hearing to determine whether TransAlta drove up electricity prices in 2010 and 2011 by intentionally manipulating the market in order to increase profits (Edmonton Journal). Rob Spragins of the AUCA said his office supports the provincial Market Surveillance Administrator’s allegations and wants a remedy to deter anti-competitive conduct by companies like TransAlta. He suggested that should include refunds to consumers if the allegations are proven. Spragins argued that without the advocate’s input, the AUC hearing would not be perceived as fair and open and his office would not be able to provide important evidence.
The Utilities Consumer Advocate represents interests of electricity and gas consumers (residential, small business, farm) in Alberta. Electricity prices in Alberta are among the highest in Canada. For more information on the Market Surveillance Administrator’s allegations that TransAlta manipulated the electricity market, see this link.
July 2, 2014
AltaLink Sale Not in Alberta’s Best Interests
Yet another Albertan explains, in this recent letter to the Edmonton Journal, why the sale of AltaLink by Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin to U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway Energy (Warren Buffett) is not in the best interests of Alberta. Allen Futcher of Edmonton argues that provincial critical infrastructure should not be sold to a foreign entity. See this link for a list of the pros and cons of the AltaLink sale.
June 11, 2014
Ducks Unlimited Suggests AltaLink Line be Moved or Buried
RETA missed the following story by Global Edmonton January 23, 2014:
Further to the approximately 360 ducks that were killed by a new AltaLink transmission line near Pincher Creek between November 2013 and early January 2014, Perry McCormick of Ducks Unlimited said that although deflectors may help birds navigate the lines, there are other options to protect thousands of waterfowl in the area. He said, “Alternatively you may consider moving the lines or potentially bury the lines.” David McIntyre, a local scientist who first reported the duck deaths, said “If that line is allowed to stay, I would say that what we have seen is just a small piece of what’s there.” McIntyre was certainly correct because an additional 100 ducks were reported killed by the same line in February 2014. For further details on the tragic death of at least 460 ducks, killed by the Pincher Creek AltaLink power line, see this link.
June 11, 2014
Puget Sound Energy Motivated by Revenues – Not Local Demand
Todd Anderson, an expert in electrical engineering, recently said Puget Sound Energy’s plan for a new 18-mile-long 230kV transmission line from Redmond to Renton, Washington, is motivated by revenues – not local demand (MyNorthwest.com). He said “PSE’s big need for doing this project is to be able to have a revenue stream that is going to replace what they’re going to be losing over the next couple of decades.” Anderson suggests electricity utilities are in trouble because new technologies such as in-home micro-generation units and wind and solar power will soon reduce demand and cut into utility revenues. “This project is not needed at all to satisfy local needs,” he said. “It’s all about shipping power to Canada and from Canada, down to California.”
June 6, 2014
High Electricity Transmission Costs in Alberta Will Boost Power Bills
Jim Wachowich of the Consumers’ Coalition of Alberta recently said skyrocketing electricity transmission costs will drive power bills even higher in Alberta (Edmonton Journal). He said the actual cost of electricity is expected to be low in the short term, but residential power bills will increase as a result of transmission costs that are forecast to rise dramatically over the next 5 years. Reasons for the rapidly increasing costs of transmission in Alberta include: expensive unnecessary transmission lines are being built; when new lines are actually proven to be needed, they are significantly overbuilt; transmission infrastructure construction costs are higher in Alberta than elsewhere due to the uncompetitive nature of contracting; and an infatuation within the transmission industry, AESO and AUC for over-redundancy (duplication of lines).
May 28, 2014
One Person Killed After Helicopter Hits Power Lines
A helicopter crashed May 23 in southern California after clipping and downing power lines, killing the only person on board (The Republic). The Robinson R22 helicopter went down in a dry riverbed about 3 miles west of the Santa Paula Airport in Ventura County, causing a brush fire that burned about an acre before it was put out. See Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for hundreds of additional examples of overhead power lines causing aircraft accidents, deaths and injuries. Transmission and distribution lines should be buried to prevent these accidents.
May 14, 2014
More Research Links Overhead Power Line EMFs with Birth Problems
Recent studies report that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMFs), such as those emanating from overhead high voltage transmission lines, are associated with lower human birth weights (Science Index). These data add to the list of other research studies which indicate that overhead high voltage power line EMFs are conclusively linked to increased risks of miscarriage (up to 5 times the expected rate) and a variety of birth defects (spina bifida, club foot, esophageal defects, hydrocephalus). See this link for more information on the many health effects of overhead high voltage power line EMFs.
May 5, 2014
SNC-Lavalin Sells AltaLink to U.S. Billionaire Warren Buffett
Scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin is selling AltaLink to U.S. Berkshire Hathaway Energy – owned by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett – for $3.2 billion. The sale is viewed as helping SNC improve its financial situation. Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin has experienced financial problems during the past several years as the engineering giant and many of its past executive members were being investigated and/or charged with bribery, fraud, money-laundering and several other crimes in Canada and many other countries. Following the sale, SNC will maintain a working relationship with AltaLink.
Alberta’s NDP Leader, Brian Mason, has called on the provincial PC Government to ask the Alberta Utilities Commission to reject the sale of AltaLink to U.S. Berkshire Hathaway Energy (Edmonton Journal). Mason said, “I don’t believe, fundamentally, that our transmission system in this province should be an internationally traded commodity. All of that will merely serve to ultimately raise the price of our electricity”. Alberta, which has the only fully deregulated electricity market in Canada, already has among the highest electricity prices in the country.
April 24, 2014
Opposition to Badger Coulee Transmission Line Continues
Residents continue to voice their opposition to the proposed 180-mile-long 345kV Badger Coulee Transmission Line from La Crosse to Dane County, Wisconsin. Residents in the Town of Holland told a meeting April 23 that they are worried the new above-ground line would take a toll on their health, environment and property values (WKBT News). See this link for more information on opposition to this proposed overhead line.
April 18, 2014
AltaLink Employee Impersonators Bilk Landowner of Money
A landowner in the Kathryn, Alberta area was bilked of an undisclosed amount of money in March by 2 individuals impersonating AltaLink employees (Marketwired). The individuals asked for a financial contribution from the landowner as part of transmission project activities. The landowner handed over a cheque, which has since been cashed.
Landowners are often confused by AltaLink employees, land agents and contractors during consultations about proposed new overhead high voltage transmission lines. In some cases, AltaLink agents have intimidated vulnerable landowners as transmission line routes are being selected. Fraudsters impersonating AltaLink employees certainly does not help the situation.
April 17, 2014
Too Many Power Outages Due to Overhead Power Lines
Anyone who Googles “power outage” will quickly discover that almost every day hundreds of thousands of electricity consumers in North America are without power because overhead transmission and distribution lines are somehow compromised. Power outages occur because above-ground power lines, poles or towers snap, fall over, are short-circuited or are negatively affected by other factors. A few of the more common causes of overhead power line failure include: snow, ice, rain, tornadoes, hurricanes and other high winds knocking out power; trees falling over power lines; rodents, other mammals and birds causing short-circuiting; birds crashing into lines; vehicles crashing into towers and poles; overhead equipment like cranes and farm equipment taking out lines; airplanes, helicopters and hot air balloons crashing into power lines; fires sparked by rain or snow mixed with debris on transmission/distribution infrastructure; fires caused by other factors taking out power lines; and normal deterioration of overhead lines by weather.
Millions of dollars are spent repairing damaged transmission and distribution infrastructure, and power outages result in millions of dollars in lost labour productivity. There is other significant collateral damage as well; for example, many students in Newfoundland and Labrador have missed up to 4 weeks of classes this past winter due to power outages.
Burying transmission and distribution lines would avoid these recurring costs and safety hazards.
March 30, 2014
Corruption and Bribery Systemic at AltaLink’s Parent Company
This WeComply article says, “…past whistleblower complaints and statements from former executives charged with corruption indicate that bribery and corruption was systemic and well-known, and became woven into SNC-Lavalin’s corporate culture”. The article summarizes just a few of the corruption allegations against AltaLink’s parent company, Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, including: a kickback scheme connected with the $127 million restoration of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal; disguising $160 million in bribes as consulting fees to Saadi Gadhafi, son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi; and, a $22.5 million kickback scheme to secure a $1.3 billion contract for SNC to build a new hospital in Montreal.
See this link for more information on the many Canadian and international corruption investigations and charges against SNC-Lavalin, which is building AltaLink’s overhead high voltage power lines in Alberta.
March 17, 2014
Few Supported Deregulation Before its Implementation
E.R. Christensen of Evansburg points out in this letter to the Edmonton Journal that there was very little public support in the late 1990s for deregulating the electricity generation industry; however, in spite of this, the Alberta P.C. government went ahead and implemented the only fully deregulated electricity market system in Canada. It’s been a windfall for the power industry since then, but a financial nightmare for electricity consumers. Christensen writes, “Rural communities – especially arenas and halls – are reeling from these high power costs. And numerous other charges now appear on our bills, marking them several times higher than the actual energy used.”
March 12, 2014
Alberta’s Electricity Generation and Transmission Prices Too High
A.P. Campbell of Sherwood Park suggests in this letter to the Edmonton Journal editor that perhaps one of the reasons Alberta’s electricity prices to consumers are so high is because the generation suppliers are friends of the Alberta P.C. Party. It is a well known fact that the electricity generation and transmission companies have a very cozy relationship with the Alberta P.C. Party.
G.P. Young of Edmonton, in this letter to the Edmonton Journal, has trouble with TransAlta’s recent ad that attempts to defend itself against charges of intentional market manipulation. Young also points out that Albertans, not the transmission company, paid for the recently-built Heartland monster line that “caused my children’s school to be closed, and forced my family and others to move because our homes and school were too close to where the lines were going up”.
March 11, 2014
Deregulation has Brought Alberta Highest Power Prices in Canada
D.P. Dufresne of Edmonton wrote in this letter to the Edmonton Journal that, in the year ending March 31, 2013, Albertans paid the highest provincial price for electricity in Canada. He pointed out that in 2000, Albertans paid 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas in 2001, after deregulation was implemented, the price jumped to a whopping 13 cents/kh. He wrote that power companies and the provincial P.C.s continue to boast about Alberta’s deregulated energy market and the associated competition, choice and savings for consumers; rather than warn us the system is prone to price manipulation and associated profit escalation for the power companies. Dufresne cited TransAlta as an example of a company that has, on several occasions, manipulated the price of electricity in order to boost its profits.
March 3, 2014
Alberta Transmission Fees Increase Dramatically
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman is recently quoted as saying, “All Albertans are being affected by sharp increases in the transmission fees charged by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO)…And it appears these costs could double in the next five years.” (Lethbridge Herald) The article continues, “The increases have been ordered by the government-appointed system operator in response to the latest 22% hike in transmission ‘base charges’ being paid to some of the province’s biggest power companies. Officials say that the charge, estimated at $21.91 per month this year, has increased nearly 22% each year since 2011.” These dramatic increases in the costs of electricity transmission to consumers, who pay 100% of Alberta’s electricity infrastructure costs, are to cover the exhorbitant costs of all the unnecessary high voltage power lines proposed by the AESO and transmission industry and approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) – e.g., Heartland 500kV line, Western Alberta 500kV Transmission Line, Eastern Alberta 500kV Transmission Line. The Alberta PC Government is primarily to blame for these new costs because it legislated the building of the 500kV lines pursuant to the Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 50).
March 1, 2014
TransAlta Accused of Manipulating Electricity Market Again
TransAlta Corp. has been accused of intentionally shutting down its power plants at peak times to drive up prices and increase the corporation’s profits. Specifically, the Alberta Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA) has claimed that TransAlta “undermined the integrity of the Alberta wholesale electric energy market by engaging in anti-competitive conduct.” The MSA claims that on 4 occasions involving 6 of its power plants, TransAlta’s “…corporate strategy entailed improperly timing discretionary outages in order to maximize TransAlta’s profits in both the power pool and the forward market, while impairing the fair, efficient and openly competitive operation of the market.” TransAlta was also fined $370,000 in November 2011 for breaking market rules. At the same time, the MSA is seeking to ban a former TransAlta employee and a current employee from energy trading in relation to the charges against TransAlta. Last year, one of the employees was fined $15 million for allegedly manipulating electricity prices in California and other western U.S. markets. Canada’s only fully deregulated electricity market has been widely criticized in Alberta, where customers pay some of the highest electricity prices in the country. Wildrose Utilities Critic Joe Anglin said Alberta’s system is “…a complete disaster” ; however, Premier Redford continues to defend the embattled deregulated system. Sources for this story include: Edmonton Journal 1, Edmonton Journal 2, Edmonton Journal 3.
Feb. 26, 2014
AltaLink’s Parent Company Pocketed Millions in Extra Fees
Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, which is building AltaLink’s power lines in Alberta, led a consortium that pocketed between $15 million and $17 million in extra fees for work on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in Montreal (QMI Agency). Although the Federal Bridge Corporation signed a contract with the consortium for $110 million in 2000, the group was paid a total of $127 million by 2002. At the same time, it is alleged that SNC deposited $1.5 million into Swiss bank accounts belonging to the former President and CEO of the bridge corporation, Michel Fournier. Swiss and Canadian authorities are investigating the legitimacy of the bank transactions, and the possibility of a kickback to Fournier.
Feb. 25, 2014
Now We Have to Live with the Heartland Line
Sherwood Park resident, Joan Bentley, writes (tongue-in-cheek) in this letter to the Sherwood Park News editor today, “…let’s build a new community overlooking the majestic monopoles carrying 500-kV power lines and for generations to come you can enjoy life with health issues, and watch your grandchildren climb those monopoles to reach new heights”. She provides some history of the long and sad battle fought by thousands of Strathcona County, Edmonton and Sturgeon County residents, businesses, industry, schools, day care centres and municipal governments to either stop the Heartland line altogether because the line isn’t needed, or if it was to be built to bury it where it runs closest to dense populations. Of course, that battle was lost because the Alberta PC Government, AESO, AUC, AltaLink and EPCOR had already decided the massive Heartland power line would be built close to over 15,000 residents.
Feb. 24, 2014
Overhead Power Line Concerns Grow in the United States
Communities across the United States are voicing their concerns about new overhead high voltage power line proposals. A few of the more recent examples are from Iowa (Radio Iowa), Illinois (The Courier-News) and New York (WNYT), where residents are concerned about: eminent domain (expropriation of private property for power lines), bisecting properties, human health, impacts on school children, livestock health, development sterilization, and other negative economic impacts. State of New York residents in Columbia County say they’re not opposed to more power lines, per se, but have a number of better alternatives to ugly overhead towers and lines, including running the lines underground.
Feb. 24, 2014
AltaLink’s Parent Company in More Trouble
Corruption troubles continue to dog AltaLink’s parent company, SNC-Lavalin, which is building AltaLink’s high voltage power lines in Alberta. One of the latest allegations concerns Michel Fournier getting a $1.5 million kickback after SNC was awarded a $127 million contract to refurbish a Montreal bridge (Canadian Manufacturing). Fournier was head of the Federal Bridge Corp. and then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s Chief of Staff. The fourth consecutive recusal of Kerala High Court judges from hearing the SNC-Lavalin hydroelectric projects corruption case in India has increased concerns about just how extensive the corruption might have been (The New Indian Express). Meanwhile, governments around the world have been distancing themselves from SNC-Lavalin, considering the many Canadian and international corruption allegations and charges against the Quebec-based engineering giant. One of the latest to make sure it has no contracts with SNC is the City of Nanaimo, which recently said it has no business dealings with the scandal-plagued company (Nanaimo Daily News).
Feb. 24, 2014
No Need for Heartland Power Line
Tony Abbruzzese wrote in this letter to the editor of the Sherwood Park News that, because ATCO is building a gas-fired power plant in the Industrial Heartland, there is no need to bring coal-fired electricity to the area by the Heartland 500kV power line. He calls the Heartland pylons (towers) obnoxious. (Many Sherwood Park and Edmonton residents call them ugly.) RETA has written extensively about the many reasons why the Heartland line is not, and never was, needed at all; however, the Alberta Government, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), AltaLink and EPCOR forced the line upon Albertans who are now on the hook to pay for the line for the next 50-65 years.
Feb. 3, 2014
Overhead Power Line Kills 3 in Helicopter
All 3 people aboard were killed in a helicopter crash January 27, 2014 while conducting a routine inspection of an overhead power line near Silt, Colorado (Huff Post News, The Republic). The helicopter snagged a power line that spanned a broad deep ravine about 150 miles west of Denver. See Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for hundreds of other examples of aircraft colliding with overhead power lines. Thousands of deaths and tens of millions of dollars in damages could be prevented if power lines were buried.
Jan. 17, 2014
Pressure Builds to Phase Out Coal Plants
A panel discussion hosted yesterday at the University of Alberta by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) highlighted the need to quickly phase out coal-fired power plants (Edmonton Journal). The CAPE pointed out in its 2013 report “A Costly Diagnosis” that Alberta burns more coal to produce electricity than all other provinces combined, and the greenhouse gas (GHG) output from burning this coal is roughly equal to the GHG output from Alberta’s tar sands. “A Costly Diagnosis” provided startling statistics on the annual number of deaths, hospital visits and asthma attacks attributed to coal-burning GHG emissions in Alberta. Last year the federal government issued a timeline to phase out coal plants which was very coal-industry friendly and in fact permits coal-fired plants that are in the planning stages in Alberta to be completed and run their full life cycles. At yesterday’s panel discussion, Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann and NDP MLA Rachel Notley asked for much quicker action to phase out coal plants, noting the environmental and health benefits of switching to natural gas or renewable energy such as wind and solar. Dr. Swann said Alberta’s carbon tax needs to be increased to help speed up the transition. Notley suggested the establishment of an expert panel to consider different models for transitioning away from coal.
Jan. 17, 2014
Gusting Winds Knock Down Power Lines in Western Canada – Update
Winds gusting up to 126 km/hr knocked down power lines and knocked down trees that fell onto power lines across western Canada January 14 and 15 (Calgary Herald). Hundreds of customers were without power in the Edmonton area as EPCOR was flooded with calls of power outages. Thousands of ATCO customers were without power across northwestern Alberta as high winds knocked down power lines and leveled power poles (HQGrandePrairie.com). About 16,000 BC Hydro customers across northern B.C. lost power as trees toppled onto power lines and brought them down. Power outages were also reported in Saskatoon. These power outages could be prevented if power lines were buried.
Jan. 15, 2014
AltaLink’s Parent Company, SNC-Lavalin, Could Face $200 Million in Bribery Penalties
Maxim Sytchev of Dundee Securities speculates that a recent settlement of an Alcoa bribery case in Bahrain suggests a potential SNC-Lavalin fine of up to $200 million for bribing officials in numerous countries – including Canada – in order to secure lucrative engineering contracts (Global Post).
Jan. 14, 2014
AltaLink Should Start Burying Their Power Lines
Terri Vidricaire recently wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Pincher Creek Voice about the estimated hundreds of ducks that were killed by AltaLink’s new 240 kV overhead power line north of Pincher Creek. Terri points out that AltaLink and Stantec were warned that this would likely happen if an overhead line was built in and near the sensitive watersheds and flyways in the Pincher Creek area. Terri also expressed concerns about AltaLink’s other proposed overhead high voltage lines, including between Pincher Creek and Waterton Lakes National Park. In conclusion, Terri wrote, “Rather than coming up with a band-aid solution, when will AltaLink start burying the lines?” AltaLink and its environmental consultant, Stantec, consistently ignore environmental data and potential impacts of overhead lines on birds…but then why not? As of 2008, the Alberta Government no longer requires Environmental Impact Assessments for any high voltage power lines built in Alberta. This is referred to as the “Alberta Advantage”…at least for the electricity transmission industry.
Dec. 27, 2013
Power Outages in U.K., France and Spain
Severe winter storms on December 24, including extremely strong winds, have left tens of thousands of homes without power in Europe (Associated Press). About 200,000 homes were without power in western France, 150,000 mainly in southern England, and 88,000 in the Galicia region of Spain. Buried power lines are not susceptible to damage by storms, and thereby prevent costly and hazardous power outages.
Dec. 25, 2013
Ice Storm Hits Northeastern U.S. and Knocks Out Power
The same ice storm that knocked out power last weekend to about 500,000 households in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, left about 500,000 Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England households without power (abc 36). These hazardous and costly power outages could be prevented by burying transmission and distribution lines, just like all of our other utilities.
Dec. 21, 2013
Deregulation Totally Responsible for High and Volatile Electricity Prices
Keith Provost, former senior VP of Alberta Power (now ATCO Electric), writes in today’s Edmonton Journal, “…deregulation, or the manner deregulation was implemented, is totally responsible for the high, volatile prices we are paying for electricity” in Alberta. He says consumers are bearing the high costs of this faulty deregulated system. Provost indicates in the year 2000, the all-in cost of generating electricity was about 3.5 cents per kWh. In 2001, the year deregulation was implemented, the average price was more than 13 cents per kWh, about 4 times the price under a regulated system. He disagrees with Energy Minister Ken Hughes on several issues. Hughes said we have a free market system that is functioning well in Alberta. Provost says the system does function well for the generating companies, but consumers pay an extra $2 billion to $3 billion a year toward the generators’ bottom line. Because electricity is a an essential service, it ought to be delivered to consumers at the lowest possible cost. Provost finds fault with the way electricity prices in Alberta are determined, and writes, “This system is wide open to manipulation and can hardly be called a free-market system.” He concludes by writing it’s time the Alberta government started directing its efforts to “…providing electricity to consumers at the lowest possible cost rather than maximum profits to generating companies.”
Dec. 19, 2013
Another Arrest in Corruption Probe of AltaLink’s Parent Company
The RCMP have recently charged Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan with one count under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act in connection with their probe into Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin (Canadian Press), the engineering giant that is building the Heartland and Western Alberta transmission lines together with AltaLink. The probe is investigating the awarding of the Padma Bridge Project in Bangladesh to SNC-Lavalin based on alleged bribes. In September, the RCMP had already charged Kevin Wallace, former SNC senior VP, with bribery under the same act for his part in the bridge contract. And, regarding the alleged bribes that 2 former SNC-Lavalin executives made to win the $1.3 billion Montreal superhospital contract, the wife of the former head of the McGill University Health Centre has had her request to move to Florida denied (Montreal Gazette). A Quebec Superior Court judge rejected her request while she is awaiting trial, along with her husband, Arthur Porter, for their role in laundering $22.5 million in alleged bribes by SNC. See this link for more information on the Canadian and international corruption probes into AltaLink’s parent company.
Dec. 19, 2013
Overhead ATCO Power Lines Damaged by Cold
Recently, the Town of Mundare, Alberta lost power for more than 5 hours as temperatures dipped to -32 C (Edmonton Journal). Broken wires, damaged from the extreme cold, caused the outages around the Vegreville and Mundare areas. Mundare Disaster Services started planning the evacuation of residents including people from seniors’ lodges. As town staff were making door-to-door checks, the power finally came back on. Power outages could be prevented if power lines were buried like all of our other utilities.
Oct. 18, 2013
AltaLink’s Parent Company, SNC-Lavalin, Causes National Embarrassment
The Huff Post writes about Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin and over 100 of its subsidiaries being banned from doing World Bank business due to a multitude of corruption allegations and charges. (Of the 250 total companies blacklisted from bidding on the World Bank’s global projects under its fraud and corruption policy, 117 are from Canada and 115 of those are SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiaries.) It is an understatement to say that SNC-Lavalin has become a national embarrassment. The Huff Post writes, “So you would think a company that has brought so much bad publicity to Canada’s name around the world, whose alleged corruption comes within a whisker of touching Canadian politicians, would be a toxic hot potato no government in Canada would want to touch…Don’t count on any government in Canada to hold SNC’s feet to the fire. Blinders on and taxpayers’ cash in hand, they’re willing to reward allegations of corruption with big, fat contracts. After all, as B.C.’s Transport Ministry said, this is just ‘business as usual’.” SNC continues to build AltaLink’s high voltage power lines in Alberta. Apparently, the Alberta Government, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) think there’s nothing wrong with a company making hundreds of millions of dollars in Alberta, even though that company has been alleged and charged with committing fraud, bribery and money-laundering around the world (including in Quebec).
Oct. 16, 2013
AltaLink’s Parent Company Stock Drops as Profit Forecast Slashed
In the wake of national and international corruption scandals, SNC-Lavalin stock dropped by up to 7% in early trading this morning, as the company slashed its earlier 2013 profit forecast from $220 – $235 million to $10 – $50 million (Reuters). Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, which owns 100% of AltaLink, is currently building AltaLink’s controversial high voltage power lines in Alberta. See this link for more information on AltaLink’s scandal-plagued parent company.
Oct. 14, 2013
Overhead Power Lines Cause More Aircraft Accidents
A hot air balloon, participating in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, got caught in a power line October 9 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (KOB News). Both occupants were burned and one had to have his left arm amputated. Two other balloons at the same Balloon Fiesta also hit power lines, one on October 5 and the other on October 6 (CNN). Both balloons were able to make safe landings. Previous accidents at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta include a man who was killed in 2009 after a fiery balloon collision with power lines, and a woman who fell to her death in 2007 after a balloon snagged a power line (WDEF 12 News). On October 6, 2013, a helicopter crashed while working on a transmission line in Cottle County, Texas (Amarillo Globe News). The pilot was killed when the tail rotor of his helicopter clipped a transmission line pulley while a worker was trying to connect the line to a pole. See Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for many more examples of power lines causing aircraft accidents. Power lines should be buried.
Oct. 5, 2013
Investigations of AltaLink’s Parent Company Corruption Continue
While AltaLink’s parent company’s international corruption allegations and charges broaden in scope, investigations of alleged SNC-Lavalin corruption in Canada also continue. The National Post recently reported, “(Arthur) Porter is now in Panama’s La Joya prison awaiting extradition to Canada, where he is accused of defrauding the McGill University Health Centre by taking bribes from former executives at engineering firm SNC Lavalin as part of a $22.5-million kickback scheme.” Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin is building the controversial Heartland Transmission Project together with AltaLink and EPCOR. See this link for more information on the corruption scandal at AltaLink’s parent company.
Oct. 3, 2013
Health and Overhead High Voltage Power Lines
We recently came across a very well researched guest column by John Broxterman in the May 31, 2013 issue of the Marysville Advocate (see this link). Broxterman cited many peer-reviewed articles in well-respected scientific and medical journals that report strong links between overhead high voltage line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and increased risks of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, clinical depression, suicide and Alzheimer’s disease. See this link for more information on the negative health effects of overhead power lines.
Sept. 27, 2013
Opposition Continues Over Dominion Virginia Power High Voltage Line
About 1,500 people have signed a petition opposing Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed overhead 500 kilovolt power line slated to cross the James River in Virginia (Virginia Gazette). The petition urges the Norfolk District Army Corps of Engineers to schedule a public hearing to fully explore all likely impacts of the line. A long list of organizations continues to oppose the overhead line, with towers up to 295 feet tall, because of the negative impacts on important environmental and historic resources and property values. Opponents are also concerned about the negative visual impacts of an overhead line, and have asked that the line be buried. Also see posts under “Latest News” for Jan. 5, 2013; Nov. 24, 2012; and March 29, 2012.
Sept. 27, 2013
Residents Take Eskom to Court Over Power Lines
Residents of Beaulieu Country Estate in Midrand, South Africa are taking Eskom to court, insisting that recently erected electricity transmission pylons be pulled down because of health risks (eNCA). One concerned resident said, “My only concern is that Eskom has broken the constitution in terms of citizen’s environmental rights…and I’m concerned for my young son, it’s a known fact that transmission lines with high voltage cause cancer.”
Sept. 27, 2013
Frisco Residents Oppose Power Line Due to Health and Home Value Impacts
Frisco, Texas residents overwhelmingly oppose overhead high voltage lines proposed for their neighborhood by Brazos Electric (CBS). They’re concerned about the impacts of the line on their health and home values, and have convinced the Frisco City Council to approve a resolution opposing proposed routes for the line. The Mayor said the city would research the benefits of burying the line and whether the line is even needed.
Sept. 22, 2013
Costs of ATCO Power Line Increase
ATCO Electric has recently indicated the costs of its controversial Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) have increased from $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion (Marketwired). The EATL was one of several 500kV power lines forced upon Albertans by the Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 50), without any opportunity for determining whether the line is actually necessary. There was no competitive bidding on construction of the line and no public accounting or monitoring of its costs. No wonder the costs continue to escalate, and no wonder Alberta consumers pay some of the highest electricity costs in the country. Information leaked by WikiLeaks strongly suggests the EATL will be used to export electricity to the USA – Albertans will pay the infrastructure costs while ATCO will reap the profits.
July 31, 2013
SunZia Power Line Threat to Environment and National Security
As the battle continues over routing of the contentious 500kV SunZia transmission lines, Pentagon officials say the overhead lines are a threat to national security and environmentalists say the lines are a threat to globally significant riparian areas (National Journal). The proposed 515-mile-long, 2 single-circuit, bi-directional 500kV transmission lines would run from rural New Mexico to urban markets in Arizona and California. The Defense Department says the lines represent a significant increase in safety hazards to pilots conducting both testing and training missions in the White Sands Missile Range. The high transmission lines would interfere with cruise missile targets and aircraft that fly as close to the ground as possible using terrain-following techniques and tests. As well, electromagnetic noise generated by the power lines could impact the low radio frequency noise level of the missile range. The Defense Department says if the SunZia line goes through the missile range, the line should be buried to eliminate the risks. Environmental groups indicate the overhead lines would transect the largest unfragmented landscape remaining in the SW USA outside the Grand Canyon area. The power lines would split the landscape in half and introduce roads into a roadless area. For more information on the negative impacts of the proposed overhead SunZia Project, see this link.
July 31, 2013
More Helicopters Crash Due to Power Lines
Overhead power lines caused 2 more helicopters to crash recently, killing 1 person and injuring 4 others. Two people were injured when their helicopter crashed after hitting a power line July 29, 2013 in Breathitt County, Kentucky (LEX 18). One person was killed and 2 others were injured when their helicopter crashed while conducting a survey of power lines July 27, 2013 near Thompson Falls, Montana (Missoulian). For more information on these and other aircraft crashes caused by power lines, see Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines.
July 24, 2013
South Florida City Wants High Voltage Power Line Buried
The city of Cora Gables, South Florida is suing Florida Power and Light (FPL) for proposing to build 100-foot-tall high voltage power poles and string them with 230-kilovolt conductors, which violates FPL’s longstanding franchise agreement with the city to build only smaller electricity transmission infrastructure (Miami Herald). The lawsuit reads, “The city and its residents will be irreparably harmed by the visual impacts, massive and over burdensome proposed power poles and lines.” The city wants the power lines to go underground. Burying high voltage transmission lines eliminates almost all of the negative impacts of overhead lines.
July 24, 2013
Power Line Health and Environmental Impacts Concern Southern Minnesota Residents
Martin County, Minnesota residents are concerned about the negative health, environmental, agricultural and aircraft hazard impacts of ITC Midwest’s proposed 345 kV high voltage line to run between Lakefield Junction in Jackson County to Kossuth County, Iowa (Fairmont Sentinel). Residents have voiced their concerns over the negative impacts of overhead high voltage power line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on health, especially their children’s health.
July 24, 2013
Arkansas Residents Don’t Want Overhead SWEPCO Power Line
Residents of Carroll County and Benton County, Arkansas are organizing to oppose Southwestern Electric Company’s (SWEPCO) 345 kV power line, proposed to run through both counties (NWA). For example, signs are posted throughout Eureka Springs protesting the line. Communities have organized into groups such as SaveTheOzarks.org to present facts about the many negative impacts of overhead high voltage power lines. They are citing negative environmental, recreational, property value, health, economic, visual and quality of life impacts of the proposed overhead line. Both Eureka Springs and the area Chamber of Commerce have voted to oppose SWEPCO’s plans. The company did not consult with them about proposed power line routes.
July 22, 2013
EPCOR Shuts Off Power by Mistake
EPCOR, the power company that is building the controversial Heartland high voltage power line together with AltaLink and SNC-Lavalin, shut off a customer’s power by mistake while the customer was on vacation (CBC News). Meat in 2 fully stocked freezers subsequently spoiled. Upon returning from vacation, the customer was told by EPCOR that her power had been turned off the very same day she left on vacation because another customer called requesting power be shut off at their home, but accidentally gave the wrong address. The same customer had called EPCOR back 3 days later to correct the mistake but EPCOR did not turn the power back on to the home for which they had mistakenly turned the power off.
July 4, 2013
Overhead Power Lines Cause Spate of Hot Air Balloon Crashes in June
Overhead power lines caused at least 4 hot air balloon crashes in the United States in June: June 27: Lake County, Florida. One passenger taken to hospital. (Fox News) June 21: Hampstead, New Hampshire. Close to 1,500 customers were without power. (Eagle Tribune) June 15: Del Mar, California. (KFMB 760 AM) June 8: Arvada, Colorado. One person injured. (Daily Mail) See Airplane, Helicopter and Hot Air Balloon Accidents Due to Overhead Power Lines for many more examples of aircraft accidents caused by overhead power lines. Transmission and distribution lines should be buried.
March 21, 2013
Chino Hills Continues Fight Against Overhead Power Line
Chino Hills City Council recently approved spending up to $500,000 more in their battle against Southern California Edison’s 500kV overhead power line through Chino Hills (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News). If they use all of the funds, the city’s total cost to fight the above-ground line would total $3.5 million. City Council and Hope for the Hills (a grassroots community-based organization) have been pushing for Edison to bury the portion of the line that runs through the city. The City and community members argue that Edison’s right-of-way is too narrow for an overhead line and that there are safety hazards with an overhead line. Hope for the Hills has been arguing for 6 years that the overhead line would have negative health, safety, property value and visual impacts, as well as eliminate the ability of families to access Federal Housing Administration financing. See this link for earlier RETA coverage of the Chino Hills power line battle.
March 1, 2013
More Charges Against Former AltaLink Parent Company Boss
A warrant for the arrest of the former boss of SNC-Lavalin, Pierre Duhaime, was recently issued by Quebec’s anti-corruption police unit, as 6 new charges have been filed against him (Reuters). The latest charges include: fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, use of forged documents, fraud towards the government, participating in secret commissions, and laundering proceeds of crime in relation to the building of the McGill University Health Centre (CBC News). Former SNC-Lavalin VP Riadh Ben Aissa has been charged with the same offenses and is also being sought under a warrant for arrest. At the same time, some who are seeking to build new infrastructure are questioning whether SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to bid on their projects, considering the construction giant’s widening corruption scandal. For example, some Waterloo Region politicians are concerned that SNC has been short-listed for a $600 million light rail transit construction contract. One of the Councillors said, “I want the companies that have no allegations” (Metroland News Service).
Feb. 25, 2013
Power Grids Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks
A security expert has recently warned that Canada’s power grids are vulnerable to cyber attacks as hackers become more sophisticated (Edmonton Journal). Fear is rising that hackers will infiltrate computer networks that route electricity. Some argue that Ottawa should legislate basic standards for national security, but to date, the federal government has rejected this approach and instead pledged $155 million for cyber security funding.
Feb. 25, 2013
TransAlta and B.C. Hydro Violated California Electricity Market Rules?
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has recently ruled that TransAlta and a subsidiary of B.C. Hydro broke the rules by charging California too much for electricity (Edmonton Journal). During a period of energy need in California in 2000 and 2001, shortly following the deregulation of California’s electricity market, electricity traders allegedly drove up the price of power by overstating the demand within the B.C.-to-California trading market through a total of 15,286 false declarations. This created the false impression that there was an electricity supply shortage, which led to higher prices. If this ruling stands up to appeals planned by TransAlta and the B.C. Hydro subsidiary, it could result in refunds of as high as $1.6 billion to California consumers harmed.
Feb. 20, 2013
First Energy Considers Overhead Power Line in Ohio Conservation Area
Local residents and stewards of a 474-acre tract of land along the Sandusky River in Ohio covered by a perpetual conservation agreement are upset that First Energy is considering building a 138 kilovolt power line right through the area (The Blade). The Black Swamp Conservancy can’t believe that an overhead high voltage power line would be considered in Peninsular Farms, a conservation area with such a diversity of habitats – woods, meadows, wetlands and riverside lands. The area has 2 pairs of nesting bald eagles, hawks, great horned owls, river otter and many other wildlife species. Those opposed to this route for the power line, one of two options, appear to have the ear of their State Rep. Rex Damschroder who said the route through Peninsular Farms is “not appropriate”. Overhead high voltage power lines have a significant negative impact on the environment, especially on birds that crash into the lines, shield wires and towers.
Feb. 19, 2013
Federal Government Continues Greenwashing
In an attempt to counter all the bad press Canada and Alberta have been receiving in the U.S. on how development of our tar sands contributes to human-induced climate change and environmental degradation of the landscape, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird recently said Canada can teach the United States some lessons on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Edmonton Journal). He said the U.S. should follow Canada’s lead on working to cut back on the use of coal-fired electricity generation. It’s true the federal government, when Jim Prentice was Environment Minister, issued strong statements about the need to transition from dirty coal-fired electricity generation to cleaner generation such as hydro, wind, solar and natural gas-fired. However, there have been so many loopholes developed to not only permit existing coal-fired generators to continue operation, but also to permit new coal-fired plants to be built. This is especially the case in Alberta where the vast majority of our electricity continues to be generated through the burning of coal which emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Some have suggested that Minister Baird’s comments are nothing more than the pot calling the kettle black.
Feb. 12, 2013
Former SNC-Lavalin CEO Formally Charged with Fraud
The Montreal Gazette reports that former SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime, who was arrested in November last year by the Quebec anti-corruption squad, was formally charged yesterday with defrauding the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) while preparing the bidding process for the new $1.3 billion super hospital. Duhaime and his co-accused, former SNC-Lavalin VP Riadh Ben Aissa, are accused of conspiring to commit fraud against the MUHC, fraud and using a counterfeit document to commit fraud. Ben Aissa is still in jail in Switzerland after being arrested in April last year on allegations of corruption, bribery and money laundering in North Africa. See this link for more information on the many investigations into corruption at SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec-based construction giant currently building the Heartland and Western Alberta high voltage power lines together with AltaLink.
Jan. 23, 2013
We Need a Clean Energy Plan
The Pembina Institute released a report yesterday urging the federal government to create a national clean-energy plan to foster growth of the clean-technology industry (Edmonton Journal). The report is based on interviews with leading executives, entrepreneurs and academics, and indicates there is strong support for innovation and growth in some provinces that have committed to supporting renewable energy. Stakeholders interviewed said governments should introduce financial and other incentives to encourage renewable energy initiatives, and at the same time reduce incentives or subsidies for the fossil fuel industry (e.g., ridiculously low royalty rates in Alberta) and penalize companies that pollute the atmosphere.
Big Concerns about Overhead Line in Illinois
Landowners have many concerns about Ameren Transmission Company’s proposed 345kV overhead transmission line to cross central Illinois from Palmyra, Missouri to Sugar Creek, Indiana (Illinois Times). The line will negatively affect 18 counties in Illinois, spanning 330 miles. Landowners are concerned about their property rights, the lines limiting their aerial spraying of crops, environmental impacts and health problems. RETA has reported earlier on landowners’ concerns about this proposed power line.
Jan. 14, 2013
Burying Lines Would Eliminate ATCO’s Power Outages
ATCO Electric’s Fort McMurray District Manager Kerry Collette recently told the Fort McMurray Today that birds, other animals, snow, frost, wind, lightning and weather-induced deterioration cause power outages in the Fort McMurray area. If ATCO Electric buried its lines, these power outages would not occur. See this link for the many benefits of burying power lines, including cost.
Jan. 12, 2013
Regulated Rate Option for Alberta Electricity Extended
Just before the new year, Alberta Energy extended the regulated rate option (RRO) for the purchase of electricity (Calgary Herald). Currently, about 70% of Albertans remain on this option with the remainder signing long-term contracts with electricity retailers. Although the price of electricity fluctuates wildly under the RRO, some say there is a saving over the long term under this option. Meanwhile, the Energy Minister Ken Hughes continues to sit on a retail market report containing recommendations to reduce high electricity prices and price volatility. The report was handed over to the Minister early last fall, and consumer groups and opposition parties are wondering why the Minister is not releasing it.
Jan. 7, 2013
Residents Urged to Share Concerns About Bay Lake Project
Two members of Green Bay City Council and one member of Brown County Board have urged residents to ask questions and share their concerns about a proposal by American Transmission Co. to reinforce the electricity transmission grid to northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula in Michigan (Green Bay Press Gazette). The project would include an overhead 345kV line, multiple overhead 138kV lines and new regional substations. Issues that have already been raised by residents and businesses include: power line proximity to homes and properties, negative impacts to property values, impacts on commercial development, negative visual and aesthetic impacts, health concerns related to the range and breadth of electromagnetic fields, environmental impacts on nearby parkland and wetland areas, noise impacts (humming, hissing, sizzling, crackling), and additional impacts to residents and businesses who have already endured enough “construction fatigue”.
Jan. 5, 2013
Opponents of Power Line Want It Buried
The public has one more chance to comment on the controversial high voltage power line proposed by Dominion Virginia Power to cross either the James River or Chickahominy River in Virginia (Virginia Gazette). James City County, which is opposed to an overhead line, is concerned about Dominion’s misrepresentation of the visual impacts of an overhead line, Dominion’s highly inflated cost estimate to bury the line, and their contention that the line isn’t even needed. See earlier Nov. 24, 2012 and March 29, 2012 “Latest News” posts on the growing opposition to this proposed overhead line, and the pressure to get the line buried. Opponents are concerned about visual impacts, property devaluation, and environmental impacts of an overhead line.
Dec. 26, 2012
It’s Official – Heartland Power Line is Closing Colchester School
On December 20, the Elk Island Public School Board (EIPSB) formally approved the closing of Colchester Elementary School at the end of June 2013 and shipping the 175 students to Fultonvale Elementary-Junior High School about 11 kilometres away (CBC News). Parents had made it clear that if the Alberta Government, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), AltaLink and EPCOR insisted on building the above-ground Heartland line within 140 metres of the school yard, they would not send their children to the school. They were concerned about the increased health risks of prolonged exposure to overhead high voltage power line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the corona effect. They had asked that the Heartland line be buried near the school, but instead the Alberta Government is spending an estimated $20 million to ship the students to another school. This money could easily have covered the costs to bury a significant section of the line near the school. “Supporting a school closure is one of the last things a school trustee wants to do,” said EIPSB Chair Barb McNeill, but “We agree with our parent community that the safety and well-being of our students is of paramount importance.” For more information on the needless closing of this well-maintained and well-respected school, see this Dec. 4 link and this Dec. 10 link.
Dec. 21, 2012
Client Terminates SNC-Lavalin Contract
“SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. said on Friday that a client had notified the company that it was terminating an engineering and construction contract awarded to SNC for a froth treatment plant in Alberta’s oil sands last November” (Reuters). Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, which is building AltaLink’s overhead high voltage transmission lines in Alberta, is in the midst of a Canadian corruption probe and several international corruption investigations.
Dec. 19, 2012
Alternatives to Expensive Overhead Transmission Lines in Alberta
Alberta Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says her party is looking at alternatives to the very expensive upgrade to our electricity transmission system currently underway (Edmonton Journal). Most Albertans, municipalities and power consumer groups are strongly opposed to the billions of dollars being spent and proposed by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), Alberta Government and transmission industry. One of the Wildrose ideas would see hydro projects on the Slave River that could generate enough electricity to power expanding tar sands projects in northeastern Alberta and growing demand in Edmonton and Calgary. The project would require one less north-south transmission line than legislated by the Alberta Government (Bill 50), and because hydro power is cheaper, our aging dirty coal-fired generators could be shut down (as demanded by the federal government). Currently about 67% of Alberta’s electricity is generated by dirty coal-fired plants such as those at Wabamun and Genesee which will feed the Heartland and Western Alberta power lines.
Dec. 19, 2012
Bury Entire Electricity Distribution Network
As a result of major power outages caused by Superstorm Sandy, Consolidated Edison (ConEd) is contemplating burying its entire electricity distribution network within metropolitan New York City (Transmission Hub). Even though 72% of ConEd’s distribution lines are already buried, Superstorm Sandy caused outages to about one-third of the utility’s service territory – about 1 million customers. “If Sandy did anything, it narrowed the gap between the cost of recovery and prevention (burying)“, said a ConEd representative. ConEd is spending tens of millions of dollars to recover from the storm, and has estimated the cost could reach $450 million. Within that context, burying the remainder of its distribution lines may well save similar repair costs in the future and in the long run be cheaper than continuously repairing the overhead component of its system.
Dec. 19, 2012
Overhead Power Line Concerns in Wisconsin and California
Landowners and local governments continue to be concerned about the proposed above-ground Badger Coulee transmission line between the La Crosse and Madison areas in Wisconsin (Wisconsin State Journal). Most recently, Dane County officials say that routes being considered run through numerous sensitive locations in the county, and would have negative impacts on the county’s agricultural, recreational, cultural and natural resources. In southern California, the Riverside City Council recently got an earful of concerns from Jurupa Valley and Eastvale residents who oppose an overhead high voltage line through their communities (Press-Enterprise). They are worried about electromagnetic field impacts on health, visual blight, and the impact overhead transmission lines would have on Jurupa Valley developing its main commercial corridor.
Dec. 12, 2012
Bury Power Lines to Protect Tourism
Sedgemoor District councillors met yesterday to consider undergrounding a 400 kilovolt transmission line through several villages in Somerset County, England (Western Daily Press). Many have called for the line, proposed by National Grid, to be buried for its entire length to protect the environment in an area dependent on tourism. The lines will transmit electricity from the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power station to Avonmouth.
Dec. 10, 2012
Where Else Might SNC-Lavalin Not be Clean?
The Globe and Mail suggests Quebec’s and SNC-Lavalin’s corruption scandal is a Canadian problem – the ongoing investigations, arrests, charges and allegations are tarnishing Canada’s reputation. The Globe writes, “SNC-Lavalin has 28,000 people working on 10,000 projects in 100 countries. People will rightly ask the question: If SNC-Lavalin wasn’t clean in its dealings here, where can it be trusted? And more broadly, can Canadians be counted on? Once tarnished, a good reputation is tough to get back…The culture of corruption that infected Quebec’s construction industry may not be unique.” The Daily Star reports on the Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission investigation of SNC-Lavalin and writes, the “Canadian company SNC Lavalin, which did not even qualify, was selected as the number one bidder in the tender for supervising Padma bridge construction through a corruption conspiracy by several government officials and powerful individuals, says the ACC enquiry report.” Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin is building many of the new high voltage power lines in Alberta for its subsidiary, AltaLink. See this Alberta Primetime story on SNC-Lavalin in Alberta.
Dec. 10, 2012
Alberta Electricity Fee Hikes Expected Again
Alberta’s electricity prices – to consumers – are already among the highest in Canada due to the Alberta Government’s mismanagement of the electricity generation and transmission industries. Consumer advocate groups suggest we are about to see additional fee hikes in 2013 because of the cost backlog incurred during the 9-month price freeze ordered by Premier Redford in an attempt to reduce Albertans’ anger over high power prices during the last provincial election (Edmonton Journal).
Dec. 8, 2012
Overhead Power Lines Kill Two and Injure Two
The Amarillo Globe News reports that a helicopter crashed November 27 in Childress County, Texas, while hovering above a power line with a lineman suspended 50 feet below the helicopter hanging a roller on a power line. The lineman was killed and the pilot was taken to the hospital with back injuries. The pilot was killed and his passenger seriously injured when a small plane hit power lines in Clutier, Iowa, November 28 (WHO TV). The power lines had previously been buried but were recently erected above ground. Many people are killed and injured every year when helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and hot air balloons crash due to overhead power lines.
Dec. 7, 2012
Weather Wreaked Havoc on AltaLink’s Overhead Transmission Lines
Although RETA has already reported on power outages in central and southern Alberta in late October and early November due to inclement weather affecting overhead power lines, we missed this November 8, 2012 news release by AltaLink. To quote the news release, “Cold temperatures and humidity wreaked havoc on AltaLink’s transmission system affecting lines from Lacombe to Black Diamond between October 29 and November 4. The culprit was ice that built up on our facilities and caused damage to shield wires and one conductor. An Emergency Response Plan (ERP) Level 1 was issued on Saturday, after a week of ice, fog and freezing rain caused circuit trips on our system.” Nine lines required repair due to ice damage. This is but one of thousands of examples of the high cost of maintaining overhead electricity transmission systems. Above-ground power lines are constantly susceptible to weather including hurricanes, tornadoes, other high winds, ice storms, cold weather, hot weather and high humidity, all of which cause countless power outages in North America that are very expensive to correct and repair, and result in many other related costs that, together, add up to billions of dollars annually. The repair costs get passed on directly to the electricity consumer. Underground power lines are not susceptible to weather – so why aren’t more power lines buried to reduce maintenance costs?
Dec. 6, 2012
Resident Upset with EPCOR
Carol McDonald of Edmonton is upset with the way EPCOR handled a recent water main break that flooded basements, garages and yards in Riverdale (Edmonton Journal). She writes in her letter to the Edmonton Journal it appears EPCOR staff couldn’t find the shut-off valves, employees ran around trying to figure out what to do, no one seemed to be in charge and, overall, staff appeared to have a cavalier attitude toward the whole situation. EPCOR is the company currently building the controversial Heartland power line along with AltaLink and scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin.
Dec. 4, 2012
Rock Island “Clean” Line Not Necessary
An association called Block RICL is trying to stop an overhead 500-mile-long high voltage direct current power line from being built in Illinois and Iowa. The purported purpose of the line, as suggested by Clean Line Energy Partners, is to transport power from wind-energy-rich states in the midwest to the greater Chicago area in Illinois. Block RICL says the line isn’t necessary because there is a surplus of electricity in the Chicago area, and power costs would have to increase substantially for the project to be profitable (Wikipedia). There is also concern that the project would deter further growth to the development of wind energy in Illinois. Opponents to the proposed line are also concerned about the line’s impact on agriculture including interference with the use of large farm machinery, aerial spraying and circle pivot irrigation; and soil compaction and crop damage incurred by tower and line maintenance activities (Bureau County Republican). Block RICL is in the process of developing a website. The association can be contacted at SaveOurFarmland@hotmail.com or call 815-315-8506.
Nov. 24, 2012
Pressure Builds to Run Power Line Underwater
Pressure is mounting to get Dominion Resources Inc. to run their proposed 500kV high voltage power line under the James River rather than over it in James City County, Virginia (Virginia Gazette). Since we last reported on this March 29, 2012, more institutions have joined the battle to get the line built underwater. Groups are concerned that unsightly towers with lines strung between them would ruin the viewshed of the river and decrease property values. They’re also worried the proposed towers would disturb bottom habitat for aquatic life whereas boring the line under the riverbed would not be as disruptive. There are concerns that construction of an above-the-river line would interfere with federally protected species such as the Atlantic Sturgeon and other wildlife. Towers would also fragment wildlife habitat on land, increasing erosion. Many feel that Dominion’s current proposal, “provides inadequate protection of the ecological resources and scenic qualities of the James River”. The following are calling for the power line to run underwater or else consider other alternatives: James City County, Williamsburg, National Park Service, Chamber & Tourism Alliance, Preservation Virginia, BASF, Kingsmill Resort, Save The James Alliance, and James River Association. James City’s Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal that the Code of Virginia be amended to state that placing utility lines underwater is a “reasonable alternative solution” when not doing so would change the character of a waterway or “destroy its historic, scenic or ecological values”.
Nov. 21, 2012
Corruption Allegations Against AltaLink’s Parent Company
The Daily Star reports that the Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission will, “…bring allegations against officials of the local agency of the Canadian consultant firm, SNC Lavalin, which was controversially selected for a $50 million job in the Padma (Bridge) project.” The Star continues, “…SNC Lavalin officials Ramesh Shah and Md Ismail, who are now in Canadian custody over the graft allegation…Ramesh and Ismail are facing trial in a Canadian court on charges of bribing Bangladeshi public officials to get the $50 million consultancy job.”
Nov. 16, 2012
Utility Pole Fires Cause Power Outages
AEP Texas reported more than 18,000 customers across 4 counties in southern Texas lost power the morning of November 16 after utility poles caught fire. The McClatchy-Tribune Regional News reported, “Mist that rolled across the Valley early Friday morning dampened dirt and dust clinging to utility equipment, said AEP Community Affairs Manager Lee Jones. Insulation units on the utility poles began conducting electricity, thanks to the unusual combination of wind-blown dust and moisture, and caught fire.” Several thousand customers remained without power into the evening. …Another reason to bury power lines.
Nov. 15, 2012
ATCO Power Line Gets Final Approval
The AUC (Alberta Utilities Commission) gave its routing approval today for ATCO Electric’s Eastern Alberta Transmission Line from Gibbons to Brooks (Edmonton Journal). There really wasn’t much left for anyone to approve, because this line was one of the lines that the Alberta P.C. Government legislated be built (Bill 50), without any accounting or needs assessments. The 500kV DC line will be about 550km long and will cost a whopping $1.6 billion. Critics have argued the line is not needed, or at minimum is a significant overbuild. They have also argued the power line should have been put out for tender which undoubtedly would have resulted in a lower price tag. Instead, this line and the other Bill 50 lines were handed over to ATCO, AltaLink and EPCOR on silver platters. Neither the power companies nor the Alberta Government care, however, because all electricity infrastructure costs are paid by customers.
Nov. 14, 2012
Burying Infrastructure Would Avert Power Outages
Southeast Edmonton residents were without power for over 2 hours this evening after a vehicle hit a power box (Edmonton Journal). Such outages could be averted if power boxes and other electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure was buried.
Nov. 14, 2012
Opposition to Overhead Power Lines Continues
A community in Marshall, Illinois has organized Stop the Power Lines Coalition to oppose Ameren Energy’s proposed Illinois Rivers Project which would see a high voltage power line right through their back yards (WTHI TV 10). Homeowners and business owners indicate the overhead line would not only threaten their jobs but their way of life. Marshall City Council, several schools in Clark County and the local farm bureau have also opposed the proposed line. At the same time, residents in southwest Columbia, Missouri have called for some or all of a proposed 161kV transmission line to be installed underground to reduce the effects of an overhead line on property values and public health. Although a Columbia city manager has inaccurately suggested that it is too expensive to bury the line, the fact is if you combine capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the life of a line, underground lines can be cheaper than overhead lines.
Nov. 12, 2012
Lawsuit to Get to Bottom of AltaLink’s Parent Company Affair
A legal team working to clear the name and restore the honour of Riadh Ben Aissa and his family vows to pursue the SNC-Lavalin affair “till the truth is exposed” (PR Web). These comments were made after Ben Aissa’s brother filed a lawsuit in the Quebec Superior Court last week alleging SNC-Lavalin has used Riadh Ben Aissa as a scapegoat in the company’s international corruption scandal surrounding its close working relationship with the tyrannous Moammar Gadhafi regime in Libya. See Alberta Primetime and Making Money by Making Friends for a discussion on SNC’s work in Alberta and its relationship with the Alberta P.C. Party. AltaLink is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin.
Nov. 8, 2012
Power Still Out for Superstorm Sandy Victims
Thousands of customers remain in the dark following Superstorm Sandy that ripped through the U.S. East Coast October 29. As an example, “Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) serves 1.1 million customers in New Jersey. According to spokesman Ron Morano, the company experienced 1.2 million power outages in Sandy’s aftermath, meaning some residents lost power twice…Most of JCP&L’s remaining customers left without power were slated to be restored by Wednesday (Nov. 7). For those towns that were hit harder by the storm, it will probably be the following week (week of Nov. 12) before they receive power.” (Sentinel) At the peak of Superstorm Sandy, about 10 million customers were without power in 21 states. Even though most transmission companies were prepared for the storm, most have been surprised by its impact on the overhead power grids along the U.S. East Coast and inland. In total, tens of thousands of transmission company employees and tree cutters have been working to repair overhead power lines knocked out by the storm. Downed power lines have caused injuries such as a 12-year-old girl critically injured after she came in contact with a live power line brought down by the storm in Cleveland (Fox 8 Cleveland). Frustrated customers are asking why more power lines aren’t buried to avert power outages, safety hazards, and hundreds of millions of dollars in repair costs and lost productivity.
Nov. 4 & 10, 2012
Power Lines Cause Helicopter Crash
“A low-flying police helicopter searching for a runaway boy (in Atlanta) hit a power line pole before it plummeted to the ground and exploded, killing both officers on board but leaving those on the ground unharmed” (Associated Press). A Georgia Power spokesman said they believe the crash was a result of the helicopter hitting overhead power lines (CNN) and a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the helicopter struck a utility pole and became entangled in power lines (WSB-TV). The crash knocked out power to about 1,300 Georgia Power customers. There are many other examples of overhead power lines causing helicopters to crash. Underground power lines do not pose a hazard to helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, hot air balloons, hang gliders or paragliders. Power lines should be buried.
Nov. 1, 2012
Freezing Rain Knocks Out Power in Alberta
Overhead power lines were downed yesterday by freezing rain in many parts of central and southern Alberta, resulting in power outages around: Lacombe, Red Deer, Bowden, Olds, Drumheller, Rawley, Three Hills, Vulcan and Pincher Creek (CBC News). This would not have happened if the lines had been buried.
Oct. 31, 2012
AltaLink’s Parent Company’s Bidding Opportunities with Federal Government
iPolitics points out if AltaLink’s parent company, SNC-Lavalin, is found to be guilty of several allegations currently under investigation by the RCMP, the company could be ineligible to apply for future work with Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). On July 11, 2012, PWGSC issued this news release, extending the list of offences that would render companies ineligible to bid on department contracts. “Bribing a foreign public official” and “money laundering” were added to the list, both of which are currently allegations against SNC and under police investigation.
Oct. 31, 2012
People Remain Concerned about Badger Coulee Power Line
Members of SOUL (Save Our Unique Lands) and Juneau County Decline the Line say American Transmission Co. (ATC) hasn’t considered alternatives to their proposed 345kV overhead Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project, such as energy conservation and small-scale local power generation (Juneau County Star Times). Many people in Wisconsin are worried about the documented negative impacts of overhead high voltage power lines on the environment, tourism, health, property values, livestock, and the economy. They’re also concerned about higher power bills once the new line is built. See this link for more information on ATC’s proposed Badger Coulee power line.
Oct. 30, 2012
Council May Sue to Stop Overhead Power Line
Jurupa Valley City Council is considering suing Southern California Edison to stop a new overhead high voltage power line from traversing their community (Press-Enterprise). The Council has tried just about everything else to get a different route selected or to get the lines buried because residents and businesses are worried about ugly transmission towers and lines, health risks, property value impacts and negative effects of overhead lines on commercial development opportunities. For more information, see RETA’s Aug. 4/11, Aug. 10/11, Aug. 21/11, Sept. 1/11 and April 1/12 coverage.
Oct. 29, 2012
Costly Power Line Repairs Anticipated – Hurricane Sandy
Electricity transmission companies are planning for major repairs to overhead power lines, as Hurricane Sandy starts to pound the east coast of the U.S. (Forbes, Long Island Newsday). As of noon Long Island time today, about 21,000 Long Island Power Authority customers were already without power. Every time a hurricane hits a major area, the public, businesses and politicians ask why more power lines aren’t buried to avoid hazardous and costly power outages. Not only is it very expensive to repair damaged overhead power lines and related transmission infrastructure (which customers will ultimately pay for), but power outages also result in millions of dollars in lost productivity. Why, indeed, aren’t more power lines buried? See this link for information on the many benefits of burying power lines.
Oct. 29, 2012
AltaLink’s Parent Company Remains in Hot Seat
The Montreal Gazette reports on more questions about the bidding process that resulted in Groupe immobilier sante McGill, led by Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, winning the bid to build the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) superhospital in Montreal. The entire project has been plagued with irregularities, including questions such as who sat on the project selection committee, why was the government’s affordability criterion exceeded, why has the MUHC’s CEO disappeared, why has the cost of the project significantly exceeded earlier estimates, and why were the same companies allowed to bid on both of Montreal’s superhospital projects – MUHC and CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’universite de Montreal) – when they were not initially allowed to? Presumably, answers to these and other questions are being sought as part of the Quebec anti-corruption squad’s investigation of MUHC irregularities and the broader international SNC-Lavalin corruption probe. (SNC-Lavalin and its wholly-owned subsidiary, AltaLink, are currently building a number of high voltage power lines in Alberta.)
Oct. 27, 2012
Europeans Take EMFs Seriously
While most governments and power transmission companies in North America try to ignore the documented health impacts of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), such as those emanating from overhead high voltage power lines, Europeans take this health risk very seriously. Recently, European Union Ministers for employment and social policy met to discuss legislation to protect workers exposed to EMFs (ETUI News ). The European Trade Union Institute has been pressing for science-based initiatives, not biased by the power industry, to look at the long-term effects on human health of exposure to EMFs. Trade unions met late last year to discuss some of the research on health effects of EMFs, including increased risk of brain cancer and Alzheimer’s disease among electricians (ETUI News ). (For a more thorough discussion on health effects of EMFs, see this link.)
Oct. 27, 2012
Investigations of AltaLink’s Parent Company Continue
As part of a broader international corruption probe, investigators are “looking at SNC-Lavalin’s role in a $22.5 million payment allegedly in connection with the construction bid for the new MUHC superhospital.” (Montreal Gazette). The old Board of Directors of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) made a decision to name the main entrance road into the superhospital “Arthur T. Porter Way”, in honour of the MUHC’s former CEO. The Gazette reads, “Porter has been unavailable for comment since the MUHC’s offices were raided by provincial police last month in connection with a corruption investigation.” Following the police raid of MUHC’s offices and Porter’s sudden departure from the MUHC, there is speculation that perhaps the name of the new hospital’s entry should be changed. (See this link for more on the SNC-Lavalin corruption probe.) (SNC-Lavalin owns 100% of AltaLink and, together with AltaLink and EPCOR, is building the controversial Heartland power line. SNC-Lavalin and AltaLink will also be building the Western Alberta Transmission Line. Both lines have angered Albertans because the Alberta Government legislated the building of both of them without any public input.)
Oct. 25 & 29, 2012
Volcanic Eruptions Pose Threat to Overhead Power Grids
University of Canterbury research suggests that future volcanic eruptions could pose major threats to New Zealand’s power supply (Voxy.co.nz, Timaru Herald). Electricity transmission throughout the North Island of New Zealand was severely disrupted when Mt. Ruapehu erupted in 1995. Volcanic ash contamination can cause insulator flashover that is essentially a short circuit which, if large enough, can trip high voltage power line circuit breakers and cause blackouts. This could be a significant problem in New Zealand where all of the country’s national power grid is located within a few kilometres of active volcanoes – Ruapehu, Tongaririo and Taranaki. (If high voltage power lines were buried, they would not be susceptible to this and many other natural threats.)
Oct. 24, 2012
Residents Don’t Want Unsightly Overhead Power Lines
Residents of Waterloo, Ontario, are upset with plans by Waterloo North Hydro to build overhead high voltage power lines through their communities (The Record). They are concerned about mature trees along their streets that would have to be cut down, worried that the unsightly poles and lines will reduce property values, and worried about health effects of overhead power lines. A group of community members has formed CORE (Conserve Our Residential Environment) in an attempt to save their communities from the unsightly lines. (Burying the lines would solve the problem.)
Oct. 22, 2012
More on High Power Prices in Alberta
In follow up to the recent release of electricity prices showing that Albertans pay among the highest prices in the country, EPCOR was unable to explain why EPCOR customers in Edmonton have been paying almost twice as much for power as EPCOR customers in Hinton (Hinton Parklander). EPCOR, together with AltaLink and Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin are currently building the controversial Heartland 500kV power line that is being appealed by a number of parties.
Oct. 15, 2012
Australian Company Buries Power Lines
While electricity transmission companies, the provincial government, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in Alberta refuse to accept the many benefits of burying high voltage power lines, other jurisdictions are more progressive. ElectraNet, a transmission company in Southern Australia, buried 18km of high voltage line under waterways, parklands and busy arterial roads in Adelaide (Adelaide Now). The company, which spent hundreds of hours in meaningful community consultations, has won 3 state awards and a national award from the Australian Institute of Project Management for its creative approach to addressing community concerns about overhead high voltage lines. It’s unfortunate the Alberta Government, AESO, AUC and Alberta electricity transmission companies are still in the Paleozoic Era when it comes to building high voltage power lines.
Oct. 15, 2012
Lawsuit Filed Against Power Line
A coalition of about a dozen local, regional and national environmental associations is suing the U.S. National Park Service over its recent approval to let the Susquehanna-Roseland 500kV overhead power line run through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Associated Press, Times-Tribune). The lawsuit claims the power line is too costly and isn’t even necessary to alleviate power shortages. Additional claims include that the line is environmentally destructive and would scar the landscape and degrade the park visitor experience. The suit also alleges deficiencies in the park service’s environmental review and that the parks service ‘s approval of the project violates several national laws.
Oct. 13, 2012
Are Ugly Power Lines Necessary?
This Baraboo News Republic editorial describes the proposed Badger Coulee transmission line in Wisconsin as “ugly”. The line “will have a major impact on the appearance of our region’s landscape”, says the editorial, and “placing a series of towers as tall as 150 feet in the heart of a tourism destination does not seem like a good way forward”. The line is also “incredibly expensive”, and many people have questioned whether the line is even necessary considering that “the increasing demand for electricity has slowed to a crawl.”
Oct. 7, 2012
AltaLink’s Parent Company Causes Concern in Illinois
As this letter to the nwitimes.com indicates, Illinois residents continue to be upset about the proposal for SNC-Lavalin to build a new Chicago-area airport, in light of the international corruption probe into the company.
Oct. 5, 2012
AltaLink Parent Company – B.C. Premier: Conflict of Interest?
This writer to The Province wonders whether there’s any relationship between SNC-Lavalin getting the contract to design, build and finance the $1.4 billion Vancouver-area Evergreen rapid transit line, and SNC Board Chairman Gwyn Morgan allegedly donating significant funds to Premier Christy Clark’s 2011 Liberal leadership bid and providing advice to the Premier. The B.C. Liberal Government said Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin will work with the government to finalize the agreement on the project (Vancouver Sun). The letter to The Province concludes, “Are there any RCMP who might investigate this for us?”
Oct. 2, 2012
Transmission Company to Offset Negative Impacts of Line
The U.S. National Park Service gave final approval for the Susquehanna-Roseland 500kV power line to be built through the federally owned Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Appalachian Trail and Middle Delaware National Scenic River (Lehigh Valley Live, Daily Record). The park service’s analysis quantified the above-ground project’s negative effect on human use and ecological losses in the federal park lands at $89 million throughout the power line’s estimated 60-year life span. The park service’s approval is conditional on PPL Electric Utilities and PSE&G paying about $56 million in mitigation fees for the areas that will be negatively affected by the overhead line. The funds will be administered by a non-profit group to purchase or preserve land for public use, compensate for wetlands impacts and fund cultural and preservation activities. The New Jersey Sierra Club said the $56 million fund “will not mitigate the impacts of the power line” and “the project will expand the market for ‘dirty coal-fired energy’ while destroying publicly owned scenic vistas and natural resources.” The Club is appealing the state Board of Public Utilities’ approval of the line, and plans on also challenging the National Park Service approval.
Oct. 1, 2012
EPCOR Takes Collection to Extreme
Laura Horstman of Spruce Grove indicates in this letter to the Edmonton Journal that EPCOR (the company partnering in the unnecessary Heartland power line) sent a collections agency after her to collect a $6.50 bill. She wonders how much money EPCOR spends on collections agencies collecting other small bills, and how spending hundreds of shareholders’ dollars in this way makes any sense. (Ultimately, these costs are passed on to EPCOR ratepayers – maybe that’s another reason EPCOR’s power rates are so high.) Horstman concludes by writing, “I for one would be pulling my support immediately from a company that operates like this.”
Sept. 27, 2012
AltaLink Parent Company Warned Years Before Bribery Scandal
The Globe and Mail reports, “A former executive (Rod Scriban) with SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. warned the Canadian engineering giant about unethical conduct by Riadh Ben Aissa more than a dozen years before the vice-president became the focal point of a sprawling police investigation, two class-action lawsuits and a precipitous drop in the company’s share price.” When Mr. Scriban tried to raise his concerns with SNC’s legal department, he was apparently told to “lay off” Mr. Ben Aissa’s case. “Mr. Scriban has also detailed how, within SNC-Lavalin’s Montreal headquarters, Mr. Ben Aissa’s work with the family of the late Colonel Moammar Gadhafi was kept secret. As the head of SNC-Lavalin International, Mr. Scriban had access to every single country file – except for the records detailing Mr. Ben Aissa’s work in Libya. ‘This file is so risky that people feel like hiding it,’ Mr. Scriban said he recalled thinking at the time.”
Sept. 26, 2012
Visual Impacts of Northern Pass Power Line
The Appalachian Mountain Club has just released a visual impact assessment of the proposed overhead Northern Pass high voltage power line as it passes through New Hampshire (Berlin Daily Sun). The assessment indicates the line would have a significant visual impact on such resources of state and national significance as Franconia Notch State Park, Pawtuckaway State Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the White Mountain National Forest. The Director of Research for the Appalachian Mountain Club said, “…the proposed Northern Pass transmission corridor is of sufficient size to be an incongruous industrial intrusion on the natural appearance of the surrounding landscape.” The visual impacts of the proposed power line could severely affect one of the region’s most valuable assets – its natural scenery. Tourism is a critical industry in New Hampshire’s North Country. Many residents and organizations along the proposed Northern Pass power line route and a presidential candidate for the Republicans have pushed for the line to be buried to eliminate the negative impacts of an overhead line.
Sept. 12, 2012
Power Poles and Mother Nature Don’t Get Along
660 News reports that the suspected cause of a September 10 wildfire that scorched about 5,000 acres in southern Alberta is a downed AltaLink power line. Jennifer MacGowan with Fortis Alberta said Mother Nature and power poles don’t have the best relationship and maintenance is an ongoing issue. Not only do overhead power lines cause many wildfires, but as these and other wildfires spread, overhead electricity infrastructure is burned and damaged, which costs millions of dollars to repair. These ongoing repair and maintenance costs are passed onto the ratepayer which is one of the many reasons overhead electricity transmission costs are so high. Burying power lines would avert overhead lines causing wildfires in the first place, and eliminate or at minimum significantly reduce electricity infrastructure repair and maintenance costs.
Sept. 11, 2012
County Board Wants to Know Impact of High Voltage Power Lines
The La Salle County Board has asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to conduct an independent study of the impact high voltage power lines would have on local rural communities (News Tribune). The resolution passed by the County Board is in response to concerns by local farmers about an overhead high voltage power line proposed by Texas-based Clean Line Energy Partners. Concerns by residents include negative health effects on humans and livestock, inability to crop dust, and negative visual effects of 75-foot-tall power lines.
Aug. 29, 2012
Canadian Bribery Law Weak: SNC-Lavalin
In the wake of AltaLink’s parent company’s international corruption scandal, this Winnipeg Free Press editorial describes Canada’s weak bribery laws. The editorial reads, “…the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), representing governments of the industrialized countries, has been trying to set some minimum anti-corruption standards. The OECD Working Group on Bribery complained last year Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act too-narrowly defines the kinds of bribes that are forbidden. Prosecutions are rare and penalties mild. Few police resources have been applied to investigating overseas corrupt practice of Canadian firms. Canada, in short, talks a good game about business ethics overseas but doesn’t do much about it.” This situation is embarrassing to law-abiding Canadians who consequently witness companies like SNC-Lavalin being investigated by others around the world such as Swiss, Bangladeshi, Indian, Mexican and World Bank authorities. Allegations of bribery, money laundering and fraud have been levied against the company and its employees. The editorial goes on to suggest that SNC-Lavalin’s new CEO, Robert Card, has a tough job ahead of him, “…to repair the firm’s damaged reputation and unravel the ethical and political tangles in which it ensnared itself.” The selection of Card has already been criticized by Quebec nationalist francophones who are not pleased an anglophone now heads one of the world’s largest construction firms that has its roots in Quebec (Globe and Mail).
Aug. 28, 2012
AltaLink’s Parent Company Not Allowed to Bid on Contract
Quebec Transport Minister Pierre Moreau will not allow AltaLink’s parent company, SNC-Lavalin, and 2 other companies to bid on a contract to repair the Ville Marie Expressway in Montreal because the 3 companies prepared a faulty repair plan that caused the tunnel to collapse July 31, 2011 (Montreal Gazette). Moreau said, “I can’t see on one hand suing these companies for almost $3.5 million (over the faulty repair plan) and on the other give them a contract” to do similar work on the same site. “It doesn’t seem logical to me.” SNC-Lavalin is currently building AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s Heartland Transmission Line.
Aug. 28, 2012
Burying Power Lines in New England States
A New Hampshire legislative study group is exploring the concept of using state-owned land for a publicly owned underground utility corridor, and charging rent (Energy Central). Maine has already developed such a corridor along the Interstate 95 median. Maine has a proposal to bury 220 miles of power lines for the Northeast Energy Link, which would transmit up to 1,100 megawatts of renewable power to the New England grid. Why won’t the Alberta Government consider doing the same? There are wide medians along many of Alberta’s highways, and burying high voltage power lines would address what Albertans requested in a public opinion survey conducted by Leger Marketing.
Aug. 20, 2012
Citizen Groups Sue to Stop Power Lines
The Citizens Energy Task Force, No CapX 2020, and others have filed a lawsuit challenging the need for the proposed 345kV CapX2020 power lines in Wisconsin and Minnesota (Journal Sentinel). The suit claims the utilities based the proposed project on outdated forecasts for electricity demand, and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission failed to give proper weight to evidence on historic easements to protect scenic byways along the Mississippi River when they approved the project in May. It appears that electricity transmission regulators across North America have a habit of ignoring arguments made by the public and others concerned about the best public interest, and consistently side with the powerful and very profitable transmission industry, regardless of how weak their rationale may be for new high voltage power line projects.
Aug. 15, 2012
Overhead Transmission Lines Cause Power Outage
The Airdrie City View reports that about 27,000 customers in Airdrie, Crossfield, Irricana, Beiseker and parts of Rocky View and Mountain View counties were without power for about an hour on August 14 due to a fierce storm. A Fortis spokesperson said, “It was big. The trouble was on (AltaLink’s) transmission system. There was a trip on the line.” Repeated power outages like this would be avoided if transmission lines were buried.
Aug. 9, 2012
AltaLink’s Parent Company’s “Declining Earnings & Corporate Culture”
The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) held an information picket this morning in front of the Toronto Stock Exchange to draw attention to what they characterize as SNC-Lavalin’s disregard for employees and shareholders (Marketwire). Candu Energy Inc. engineers, scientists, technologists and trades people are currently on strike. Candu Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, as is AltaLink which provides electricity transmission services to the majority of Albertans. The SPEA news release reads, “Financial experts agree that SNC-Lavalin is facing a ‘perfect storm’: Financial scandal, labour disputes and the search for a CEO, all attributable to a corporate culture that needs fixing from top to bottom, said (Peter) White. We agree and they can start by settling our labour dispute so we can return to work to deliver the best nuclear technology and return value for shareholders.” (See Making Money by Making Friends for more details on SNC-Lavalin and AltaLink.)
Aug. 4 & 7, 2012
More Power Outages Due to Overhead Lines
Recent unstable weather in parts of Alberta has resulted in numerous power outages. Two of the more recent bouts of outages were on August 4 and 7 in central Alberta including the Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan areas (Global Edmonton and CBC News). (If power lines were buried, they would not be negatively affected by inclement weather.)
July 30, 2012
Quebec Sues AltaLink’s Parent Company
Further to earlier RETA posts, the Quebec Government has just sent a letter to AltaLink’s parent company, SNC-Lavalin, and 2 other engineering firms, demanding compensation for shoddy work done last year that caused a tunnel to collapse in downtown Montreal (Toronto Star). The government is seeking $3.4 million.
July 22, 2012
More Transmission Lines Between Alberta & B.C.?
This Special to the Vancouver Sun suggests it would make more sense to build more transmission lines between B.C. and Alberta than increasing Alberta’s reliance on coal-fired electricity generation that emits high volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The article suggests there is ample surplus hydro-generated electricity in B.C. but inadequate transmission capacity between the two provinces. If such additional transmission lines were buried, a case certainly could be made that cleaner hydro-generated power from B.C. could benefit Albertans during power shortages and could benefit the environment as well.
July 12, 2012
SNC-Lavalin Corruption Probe Affects Business
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. continues to have troubles convincing decision-makers that SNC-Lavalin should participate in building a new airport in Will County near Chicago (WGNTV News). As local officials have become aware of the international SNC corruption probe which allegedly involves fraud, money laundering and bribery, they want to distance themselves from the scandal-plagued Quebec-based company. See this link for more information on SNC-Lavalin which is building almost all of AltaLink’s electricity transmission infrastructure in Alberta.
July 11, 2012
Transmission Lines Cause Major Wildfire & Death
The Associated Press reports a Utah wildfire that left one man dead and destroyed 52 homes was caused by arcing between two sets of overhead high voltage transmission lines that were built too closely together and sent a surge to the ground that ignited dry grass. Might the same happen in Alberta where: 1. AltaLink and EPCOR plan to erect the massive Heartland 500kV power line next to several existing high voltage lines in the Edmonton Greenbelt, and 2. AltaLink plans to twin the proposed Western Alberta Transmission Line with an existing high voltage line for much of its length between Genesee and Langdon? Maybe it’s time to start burying high voltage power lines to avert destructive wildfires.
July 11, 2012
Electricity Price Manipulation in Alberta?
Albertans continue to voice their frustration with the rolling blackouts ordered by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) on July 9 due to 6 power generation plants shutting down at the same time. The Edmonton Journal editorial says the blackouts with no advance notice from the AESO or the power companies were potentially dangerous. “The information void presents a glitch in the system that needs to be addressed.” The editorial goes on to suggest there are some obvious vulnerabilities in Alberta’s convoluted electricity supply-and-demand model. Based on the public uproar, the Market System Administrator really has no choice but to conduct a thorough investigation into the legitimacy of the simultaneous plant shutdowns and the possibility that market rules were not followed (Edmonton Journal). The Alberta Consumer’s Association says there is incentive for generators to shut down because the price goes up. The Industrial Power Consumers Association says the big generators don’t want to change the current arrangement, particularly if it would shift some of the risk to them and prevent them from pushing up the price whenever they want to. This story will definitely be worth following.
July 9, 2012
SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Power Employees Strike
The Canadian Press reports that about 800 nuclear scientists, engineers and technologists at Candu Energy Inc. went on strike this morning. Candu is a wholly owned subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, and its reactors supply nearly half of Ontario’s electricity and 16% of Canada’s overall electricity. The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, the union representing the workers, says it would like to return to the bargaining table but will only do so if SNC-Lavalin presents “a fair and competitive deal”. (Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, which is being investigated by an international corruption probe, also builds most of AltaLink’s electricity transmission infrastructure, as it owns 100% of the previously-based Alberta company.)
July 3, 2012
AltaLink Rights Absurd
Murray Ormberg wrote this letter to the Rimbey Review: “Farmers grow food and I am a farmer. I wish to increase my production immensely and have devised a plan to do it at practically no cost to me. First off, I don’t have to prove there is a need for this excess food and I expect the consumer to pick up my expansion costs. I feel $10 million to $15 million should set me up and a $1- or $2-check off at the till every time you buy groceries should provide me the money I need in no time. What is in it for the consumer who paid for my land and machinery? Absolutely nothing. The increased value of the land will be mine and the suckers, oops, I mean consumers will continue to pay more even if I choose to export the food to the United States and cause a shortage here. This scheme works for AltaLink so I’m sure it will work for me.” (We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Murray.)
June 27, 2012
Storm Downs Power Lines in Saskatchewan
Tens of thousands of Saskatchewan residents were without power June 25, 26 and 27, after high winds downed high voltage steel transmission towers and lines (Canadian Press 1, Canadian Press 2). About 40,000 people in Prince Albert and area alone had no power, and at least another 25 communities also experienced power outages. A SaskPower spokesperson said there was no way to prevent the transmission infrastructure damage. “They withstand a tremendous amount of wind activity and rain, ice and snow, but at times we have significant challenges from localized weather patterns which cause extreme disturbances and there’s nothing you can do to prevent Mother Nature in that kind of situation.” Every year, millions of dollars are spent repairing above-ground electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure damaged by high winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice and snow storms and other inclement weather. These expenditures could all be averted if power lines were buried.
June 19, 2012
AltaLink’s Parent Company Sued Again
SNC-Lavalin is being sued again, this time by Transport Quebec (Montreal Gazette). Although the lawsuit has yet to be filed, millions of dollars in damages will apparently be sought from SNC-Lavalin, Dessau and CIMA+. A 25-tonne beam collapsed July 31, 2011 during repair work in the Viger Tunnel, the underground portion of the Ville-Marie Expressway in Montreal. Construction experts have concluded that hydroblasting a divider wall which resulted in a concrete beam and paralumes crashing to the ground was based on inappropriate plans and specifications for the work. At the same time, investigations continue into collusion and corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, the wide-ranging corruption probe into SNC-Lavalin’s international work continues, and SNC-Lavalin is being sued by several groups of investors over allegedly providing misleading or false financial information. For more information on SNC-Lavalin’s and AltaLink’s troubles, see this link.
June 12, 2012
Budget Cuts Could Jeopardize Monitoring of Coal-fired Power Pollution
A Guelph professor warns that federal budget cuts to a team of smokestack pollution experts at Environment Canada may well jeopardize the federal government’s efforts to crack down on pollution from coal-fired electricity generation (Post Media News). This appears to contravene federal Tory comments by previous Environment Minister Jim Prentice who indicated the federal government would press the transition from dirty coal-fired electricity generation to more environmentally-friendly generation such as natural gas-fired, solar or wind power. The issue is particularly important in Alberta where the majority of electricity generation unfortunately continues to be coal-fired.
June 10, 2012
State Senator Encourages Residents to Voice Power Line Concerns
RETA has reported several times on the many concerns of residents and businesses along the proposed CapX 2020 and Badger Coulee high voltage transmission lines. Most recently, Wisconsin State Senator Jennifer Shilling has encouraged people in western Wisconsin to continue voicing their concerns about the impacts of these proposed overhead power lines on family-owned farms, organic farm operations, public health, property values, tourism-based businesses and the scenic beauty of the region (La Crosse Tribune).
June 1, 2012
High Winds Take Out Power
High winds caused power outages for at least 13,180 customers in Washington D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia on June 1 (Washington Post). Had the power lines been buried, none of these outages would have occurred. Hundreds of millions of dollars in damage repair and lost labour are spent annually because most electricity transmission companies refuse to bury power lines.
May 15, 2012
Wildrose Criticizes PCs for High Power Bills
The Official Opposition Environment and Utilities Critic Joe Anglin criticized the PC government for creating the current electrical market that leaves families and seniors at a disadvantage. In this news release, Anglin said, “The current power market primarily benefits power producers and continues to fail families and seniors, especially those who rely on fixed incomes. With the construction of unnecessary power lines along with extra costs being tacked onto Albertans’ power bills, there needs to be more concerted effort to make sure competition and the market is working for consumers.”
May 12, 2012
Calgary Mayor Says Power Lines Not Needed
The Calgary Herald reports that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the building of the Western Alberta and Eastern Alberta 500 kilovolt power lines a “terrible” idea. He said the lines won’t be needed because Calgary’s city-owned utility is building a $1 billion gas-fired power plant that will address Calgary’s peak-demand power needs. The Mayor said, “And to build both of them (power lines) and to put those costs on everyone, even ratepayers in Calgary who, once the Shepard Energy Centre is built, actually won’t be using them very much, strikes me as very, very strange public policy.” RETA could not agree more.
May 11 & 14, 2012
High Alberta Power Bills
This letter to the Edmonton Journal reads, “Deregulation of utilities in Alberta is tantamount to thievery.” The writer indicates he paid $375 between January and May to provide electricity to an empty condo in Edmonton. Another letter to the Edmonton Journal reads, “It is time the Alberta government steps in to protect the consumer against gouging by utility companies in what is basically a monopoly where free-market forces do not provide any protection to consumers.” The Alberta government has been criticized repeatedly for its failed deregulation experiment and insistence on getting unnecessary high voltage power lines built throughout Alberta, both of which have resulted in Albertans paying among the highest electricity rates in the country.
May 1, 2012
Country Club Fights Power Line
Longue Vue Club, a country club founded in 1920 on 370 acres above the Allegheny River in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, has squared off in court against Duquesne Light over a proposed power line upgrade (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Duquesne Light claims an upgrade from 69 kilovolts to 345 kilovolts is necessary and will require almost a doubling in the height from 80-foot poles to 150-foot towers. Longue Vue Club claims the new towers and lines will negatively impact the view from their facilities. The Club’s claim reads, “Longue Vue has a strong historical and esthetic interest in preserving the unobstructed view of the Allegheny River valley, for which it was named and which constitutes a material part of the value of its property.” Based on our research, RETA would agree with Longue Vue Club. Overhead high voltage power lines are ugly and blight the landscape. If they are necessary, they need to be buried in cases like this.
April 24, 2012
Merritt B.C. Residents Concerned About B.C. Hydro Line
Residents in several communities in Merritt, B.C. are concerned about the negative health effects and property devaluation associated with a new overhead 138 kilovolt transmission line planned by B.C. Hydro (Merritt News). Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emanating from overhead high voltage power lines have been conclusively linked to many diseases including many forms of cancer.
April 19, 2012
Residents Fear Property Devaluation from Power Line
FirstEnergy Corp. is planning a new 60-mile overhead 138kV power line from Clark County to Delaware County, Ohio (Springfield News-Sun). Residents fear their properties will decrease in value or will be taken by eminent domain. NoNewWires.org has a petition with more than 1,200 signatures from people opposed to the project impacting residents’ properties. (See this link for the facts on overhead high voltage power lines negatively impacting property values.)
April 13, 2012
Irish Farmers Want Power Line Buried
Farmers who live next to a proposed 400 kilovolt power line to serve south Leinster and east Munster, Ireland, want the line buried. They are concerned about the negative impacts of overhead lines and pylons (towers) on their farming activities and on protected landscapes. Eirgrid’s CEO says the transmission company prefers overhead lines but the cable may be placed underground where constraints are a factor.
April 4, 2012
Texas Tornadoes Take Out Power
Up to 13 tornadoes wreaked havoc in the Dallas-Fort Worth area April 3, leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power. A day later, over 14,000 customers remained without power. Hundreds of homes were damaged (Reuters). Had the transmission lines been buried, there would have been no power outages and millions of dollars would not need to be spent to repair power line damages.
April 1, 2012
Jurupa Valley Residents Continue Opposition to 230kV Line
Further to our Aug.4, Aug. 10, Aug. 21 and Sept. 1, 2011 coverage, Jurupa Valley residents continue their battle against Southern California’s proposed Riverside Transmission Reliability Project which would see an overhead 230kV power line built through their community (Press Enterprise). Residents have raised concerns about unsightly transmission towers, health risks associated with the electromagnetic fields, impacts on their property values, environmental impacts, and negative effects on commercial development opportunities.
March 29, 2012
More Complaints about High Power Costs
This letter to the Edmonton Journal is but one more example of Albertans’ frustration with high electricity costs. The letter points out how electricity deregulation has failed miserably, how power costs keep going up to pay for all the new and unnecessary high voltage lines, and that many of these new lines Alberta ratepayers are forced to pay for will be exporting power to the United States. High electricity costs, unnecessary new transmission lines, negative impacts of overhead high voltage lines, and the cozy relationship between the Alberta PC Party and AltaLink, are all key provincial election issues.
March 29, 2012
Power Line Critics Want Line Run Underwater
Residents of James City, Virginia are worried about the environmental, visual and property value impacts of a new overhead high voltage power line to be built across the James River (Virginia Gazette). Many critics prefer that Dominion Resources Inc. run the 500kV line underwater. Dominion has significantly overestimated the capital cost of running the line underwater. When capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs are combined over the life of a line, buried lines are less expensive than overhead lines.
March 27 & 29, 2012
SNC-Lavalin’s CEO Resignation a Mystery
On the issue of SNC-Lavalin’s CEO suddenly resigning earlier this week amid allegations of breaching the company’s code of ethics, the San Francisco Chronicle says, “you have to burrow through tons of legalese to get an idea of what the problem was……..(Pierre) Duhaime’s guilt or lack thereof notwithstanding, no one disputes that he was in charge when $56 million officially went missing.” Meanwhile, AltaLink, which is owned by SNC-Lavalin, tried to distance itself from its parent company by suggesting that the controversy over SNC-Lavalin’s financial problems in Libya and the related CEO’s resignation will not affect AltaLink’s operations and leadership (Calgary Herald). This is hard to believe considering that 100% of AltaLink is owned by SNC-Lavalin, and three of AltaLink’s nine Board of Director members are SNC-Lavalin vice presidents (Gilles Laramee and Jim Burke are Executive VPs, and Don Chynoweth is a Senior VP). Patricia Nelson, past Alberta PC Minister of Energy and Minister of Finance, also sits on the AltaLink Board.
March 22, 2012
Cogeneration of Power Negates Need for Massive Transmission Lines
Big industry in Alberta has been telling the Alberta government we don’t need all the massive transmission lines that the government wants to get built. Recently, Imperial Oil Ltd. provided yet another example of why there is no need for 5ookV power lines from dirty coal-fired generation at places like Wabamun to feed the oil and gas industry in northeast Alberta. Imperial’s in situ thermal Nabiye expansion at Cold Lake will include a 170 megawatt cogeneration facility which will sell excess power into the Alberta grid (see Calgary Herald). It’s estimated that Imperial will consume only about 15% of the power generated from the facility, leaving about 145 megawatts of cogen capacity to be sold into the grid. Not only does Imperial not require expensive coal-fired electricity from Wabamun to be transmitted by the Heartland and other lines, but the excess cogen from the Cold Lake expansion alone would generate about $86 million per year in cash flow for Imperial. Huge 500kV transmission lines, as planned by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and the Alberta government are certainly not necessary to transmit cogen power into the provincial grid – much smaller capacity lines would suffice. This is yet another example of the AESO’s and the provincial government’s huge and expensive mistake of insisting on overbuilt lines to and from northeast Alberta. And, the cost of these overbuilt lines will be footed 100% by Alberta ratepayers, while the transmission companies will reap guaranteed 9% returns annually from ratepayers’ investment.
March 21, 2012
SNC-Lavalin Connections Cause Problems
CBC News reports that Ambassador Sandra McCardell is no longer the top diplomat to Libya. This follows earlier CBC reports that SNC-Lavalin had hired McCardell’s husband, Edis Zagorac, to work as part of a military-civilian engineering unit that the Montreal-based engineering firm created with the tyrannous Gadhafi regime. SNC-Lavalin, which had billions of dollars in contracts with Libya, hired the ambassador’s husband shortly after her appointment to Libya. SNC-Lavalin owns 100% of AltaLink and, together, they will be building the Western Alberta Transmission Line and the Heartland Line in Alberta.
March 21, 2012
Taking of Private Land for MATL Power Line
The Choteau Acantha reports that Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. (MATL) is asking the courts to grant it easements on the private properties of 46 landowners (79 parcels) who refuse to permit the 214-mile-long merchant high voltage line from Lethbridge to Great Falls to be built on their land. The MATL transmission line has seen its fair share of controversy: landowners refusing easements on their properties; original MATL owner running out of money and buy-out by Enbridge; significant construction cost overruns; delays over work quality, safety and contract interpretation issues; and not meeting with some landowners.
March 17, 2012
EPCOR Boasts High Profits – Customers Pay Outrageous Rates
As with AltaLink about 3 weeks ago, EPCOR has announced soaring revenue and profits (see Edmonton Journal). At the same time, EPCOR customers are complaining about outrageously high power costs and getting gouged. One of the reasons for the outlandish power rates is the fact that ratepayers in Alberta foot 100% of the cost of new transmission infrastructure, while companies like EPCOR get to own it and reap guaranteed annual 9% returns on this infrastructure. High power costs are also being blamed on the Alberta government’s failed deregulation experiment. Customers have been switching to power companies that offer more competitive rates than EPCOR. (EPCOR and AltaLink will be building the controversial Heartland power line, together with Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin.)
March 17, 2012
Facts Contradict Alberta Cabinet Minister
At a recent meeting in Lethbridge, Keith Wilson, property rights expert, refuted P.C. Cabinet Minister Greg Weadick’s assertion that 2 major north-south transmission lines are urgently needed, and that most Albertans support the government’s new land-use laws, including Bills 19 and 50 (see Lethbridge Herald article). Industrial power consumer groups, ENMAX, and university studies have shown that the 2 north-south transmission lines dubiously labeled as “critical” by the Alberta government are not needed, or at minimum are significant overbuilds. And, it is a well-known fact that there was widespread opposition across Alberta to both Bill 19 and Bill 50 when they were passed in 2009. Bill 19 makes it easier for the government to unilaterally designate private land for high voltage power line corridors, and sterilizes the land for other purposes. Bill 50 takes away the public’s opportunity to review the need for new high voltage power lines, even though ratepayers foot 100% of the cost for this new infrastructure.
March 17, 2012
More Troubles for AltaLink’s Parent Company
Members of the Will County Board near Chicago, Illinois, continue to distance themselves from Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin. They do not want to consider a proposal by Congressman Jesse Jackson and SNC-Lavalin to build a new airport in Will County because of the links between SNC-Lavalin and the Libyan Moammar Gadhafi family (see Daily Chronicle article). SNC-Lavalin owns 100% of AltaLink and, together, they will be building the Heartland Transmission Line and the Western Alberta Transmission Line in Alberta.
March 16, 2012
High Voltage Lines Cause Major Forest Fires
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and its contractors recently paid $29.5 million to the federal government to settle lawsuits over 2 major forest fires in 2004 in California (see Modesto Bee article). High voltage transmission lines caused the fires in national forests in El Dorado and Trinity counties. A decayed “hazard tree” fell on one line, and a tree being cut to keep the power line right-of-way clear fell on another line. In total, 11,500 acres of land were burned, including 8,500 acres of national forest. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said, “These fires cause lots of damage, and some of the harm cannot be remedied with money, but the funds will go to compensate for costs of battling them, for the loss of valuable timber, and the expense of restoring and re-foresting the land.” These and many other fires caused by overhead high voltage lines would not have happened had the lines been buried.
March 16, 2012
Hot Air Balloons Collide with Power Lines
A hot air balloon with 9 people aboard collided with power lines in Marana, Arizona, March 16 (see KVOA Tucson coverage). Sparks generated from the collision ignited parts of the balloon but fortunately only minor burns were reported by 3 passengers. A much more serious accident occurred in New Zealand January 7, 2012, when a hot air balloon crashed into a power line, burst into flames, and killed 11 people on board (Mail Online). Overhead power lines pose major hazards to hot air balloons, paragliders, hang gliders, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. Burying these lines would avert danger to humans and avoid costly damages.
March 14, 2012
Overhead Power Lines Downed by Truck
An 18-wheeler being towed knocked over a power line today, bringing down the lines at a major intersection in Edmonton. An EPCOR spokesperson said the downed lines are dangerous and warned motorists and pedestrians to stay away from the wires (iNews 880 and Edmonton Journal). Similar accidents occur regularly, where overhead power lines are brought down to the ground and pose an electrocution danger to people. Burying these lines would not only eliminate the danger, but also save millions of dollars in damages and repair costs.
March 13, 2012
Controversial CAPX 2020 Power Line
We’ve been keeping our readers updated on the controversial proposed 150-mile-long CAPX 2020 high voltage power line from Minnesota to Wisconsin. Residents are having their final say on the line at public hearings that started March 13. Residents are concerned the overhead line will ruin their properties, harm the environment, harm scenic views along the Mississippi River, and kill a brand new subdivision. And, many people don’t think the line is needed at all (see WKBT coverage).
March 12, 2012
EPCOR Rates Too High
This writer to the Edmonton Journal is switching to another company because he says his EPCOR power bills are “outrageous”. Many other EPCOR customers have made similar complaints, and have switched or are switching to other companies that offer better rates.
March 10, 2012
Eastern AB Line Before Western AB Line?
Alberta Energy Minister Ted Morton suggests ATCO Electric’s Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) may be built before AltaLink’s Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) because there are fewer protests over routing of the former (see this article). More specifically, Morton says, “Even though the western line is the shorter line, it’s very possible the eastern line will be completed before that because there is much less landowner concern.” The AUC hearing for the WATL is scheduled to start June 11 in Red Deer, and the hearing for the EATL is scheduled to start July 23 in Brooks. Both lines are controversial, and have received significant opposition from landowners and power consumers. The need for the lines cannot be questioned at the hearings because the Alberta Government has taken away this opportunity by legislating the building of both lines (Bill 50).
March 10, 2012
Opposition to SaskPower Line Continues
The Star Phoenix reports continuing opposition to a controversial 24-kilometre-long SaskPower high voltage line in the Pike Lake area of Saskatchewan. Local landowners are protesting expropriation of their land for the power line, estimating that construction of the line above ground will devalue their land by 40%. (See this link for more facts on overhead lines devaluing properties.)
March 9, 2012
Undergrounding Considered in Northern Ireland
Alternative technologies such as underground cabling are being considered as part of an inquiry into a 400kV power line proposed by Northern Ireland Electricity. Undergrounding is being considered because of concerns raised about the negative impacts of an overhead line on public health, the ecology, natural heritage and protection of habitats for protected species (see this article).
March 7, 2012
Negative Impacts of Gateway West Line
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has received 2,600 comments on the proposed 1,100-mile-long high voltage Gateway West Transmission Line Project across Wyoming and Idaho (see this article). The project is proposed jointly by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power. Concerns and questions by landowners and homeowners include: is the line needed?, green energy can be produced closer to home, impacts on the environment, impacts on the airspace, resulting higher power rates, safety of residents living near the line, and diminishment of viewsheds. Public pressure is building across North America and around the world to bury unsightly overhead high voltage lines to eliminate negative impacts on health, safety, the environment, property values, tourism, agriculture and aesthetics.
March 6, 2012
Overhead TransGrid Line Worries Residents
Residents in New South Wales, Australia, are worried about a proposal by TransGrid to build a 100km-long high voltage power line through their communities (see this article). They are concerned about loss of views, property devaluation, safety and compensation. These concerns would not exist if the lines were buried.
March 5, 2012
Snow Storms Down Power Lines
The Petoskey News reports heavy wet snow caused widespread power outages in northern Michigan March 2 and 3. As of today, 35,000 Consumer Energy customers and close to 18,000 Great Lakes Energy customers remained without power. A late January 2012 snowstorm left 254,000 Puget Sound Energy customers without power in western Washington (see Reuters article). Millions of dollars in damages to overhead power transmission and distribution lines caused by snowstorms could be saved annually if the lines were buried.
March 1, 2012
Deadly Tornadoes Down Power Lines
Tornadoes that have killed 13 people and ripped across Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana and Tennessee, have resulted in major power outages (see KFVS and ect.coop coverage). Tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms and other inclement weather cause millions of dollars in direct damage to overhead electricity transmission and distribution lines every year. Resulting power outages cause many more millions of dollars in related damages and lost production. These types of very costly power outages and damages could be prevented if power lines were buried.
Feb. 24, 2012
AltaLink Profits While Consumers Suffer
The Calgary Herald reports profit increases for AltaLink while Alberta power consumers pay some of the highest electricity prices in Canada. That’s because Alberta power consumers pay 100% of the transmission infrastructure costs while AltaLink takes no risk and receives a minimum 9% guaranteed annual investment return, a sweetheart arrangement approved by the Alberta Government. This is particularly unethical when you consider AltaLink is wholly owned by Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin which had close ties to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s military regime.
Feb. 9, 2012
Power Line Towers Shock Neighbors
Neighbors of Pineridge Natural Area, Colorado were shocked and angered when short wooden power poles were replaced by 100-foot-tall metal poles (see this article). Residents say the new towers are eyesores and will diminish the open space in nearby parks and neighborhoods. The Fort Collins City Council had threatened to sue to block the project unless alternatives such as undergrounding were studied. Unfortunately, the Western Area Power Administration refused to consider burying the line.
Jan. 20, 2012
Power Price Spike Shuts Down Plants
Sharp spikes in electricity prices due to the cold weather, increased demand and poorly-planned shutdowns of power generators are hitting some industries particularly hard (see Edmonton Journal). AltaSteel and Alberta Newsprint have recently shut down their plants for several days when power prices peaked because it was uneconomical to continue production. For example, electricity accounts for 40% of Alberta Newsprint’s costs. Many industries and businesses have complained over the recent past that high power prices in Alberta are making it difficult for them to compete with companies situated in other provinces or the U.S. where power prices are more reasonable.
Jan. 18, 2012
Daysland Residents Opposed to ATCO Line
Concerned Neighbours in Partnership (CNIP) in the Daysland, Alberta area are circulating a petition asking Premier Redford to repeal several land-use related bills. Among them are Bill 50 which took away Albertans’ right to review the need for new expensive high voltage power lines; and Bill 19 which makes it easier for the Alberta Government to freeze private land for power line corridors. One of the goals of the petition is to restore “property and democratic rights of Alberta landowners.” The impetus for residents’ concerns is ATCO Electric’s proposed controversial 500kV HVDC Eastern Alberta Transmission Line from Gibbons to Brooks. The group hopes to make this an issue leading up to and during the upcoming provincial election. See this Camrose Canadian article for details.
Jan. 13, 2012
No One Wants CAPX 2020 Power Line
Western Wisconsin residents are essentially unanimous in their rejection of the proposed overhead CAPX 2020 high voltage power line (La Crosse Tribune article). They cite concerns about the effects of the above-ground line on: livestock, organic farms, property values, tourism, recreation, health, stray voltage, forest and wildlife.
Jan. 12, 2012
Petition Calls for Power Regulation
The Alberta NDP has initiated a petition calling for the provincial government to regulate electricity prices which have been skyrocketing in recent years to the point where Albertans are paying some of the highest prices in Canada (Edmonton Journal article). The petition can be signed at ndpopposition.ab.ca/powerprices.
Jan. 12, 2012
Residents Continue Opposing Overhead Line
Montville, New Jersey residents continue their battle against the proposed 500kV Susquehanna-Roseland Power Line (MontvillePatch article). They are concerned about the health impacts on residents, especially children in Lazar Middle School located right next to the proposed line. There are hundreds of studies that report increased cancer risks associated with living or attending school near overhead high voltage lines. Residents are also worried about documented decreased property values next to overhead lines, the negative visual impact of ugly towers and lines, and the negative environmental impact on recreation and natural areas including a national park.
Jan. 11 & 13, 2012
Land Values Plummet Due to Power Lines
Residents near Saskatoon are upset with SaskPower’s expropriation of private land for a new 138kV power line to service an Agrium potash mine expansion (StarPhoenix article and CBC coverage). Landowners near Saskatoon have watched their land values increase substantially as urban expansion moves their way. However, with the new high voltage power line proposed on or near their land, property values have decreased and the compensation offered by SaskPower is a “pittance” according to some landowners. In addition to property devaluation, homeowners are worried about health effects of EMFs which will only decrease their property values even more over time. Property devaluation caused by overhead high voltage power lines has been well documented in the literature (see this RETA link).
Jan. 9, 2012
Winds Down Overhead EPCOR lines
Another power outage is reported in this Edmonton Journal article; this time high winds damaged overhead power lines on the south side of Edmonton. Just another example of the time, costs and safety hazards associated with power lines built above ground. Had these lines been buried, there would have been no outage.
Jan. 8, 2012
Transmission Costs More Than the Power
A Smoky Lake resident indicates in this letter to the Edmonton Journal that electricity costs per kWh have increased by only 23% since 1999, while transmission and distribution costs have increased 449% over the same period. This is why Albertans’ total power bills are skyrocketing. And, the Alberta Government, the AESO and transmission companies want to increase the transmission costs to consumers even more by building hundreds of kilometres of new overhead high voltage lines that are not needed (such as the Heartland 500kV line). The Alberta P.C. Government even legislated the building of these unnecessary lines by passing Bill 50 in 2009, against the wishes of almost all Albertans.
Jan. 4 – 6, 2012
Electricity Deregulation Has Not Worked
Albertans continue to pay among the highest electricity rates in Canada due to the unsuccessful deregulation of the power generation industry by the Alberta P.C. Government. The power industry in Alberta, dominated by coal-fired electricity, is very inefficient, expensive and carbon-footprint-heavy. The provincial government promised competitive pricing under deregulation, but just the opposite has occurred. See this letter to the editor, article and news release for details.
Jan. 4 & 6, 2012 & Dec. 31, 2011
RETA Appeals AUC Heartland Decision
RETA joins Strathcona County and rural Sturgeon County landowners in appealing the November 1, 2011 decision by the AUC to permit AltaLink and EPCOR to build an above-ground 500kV Heartland line next to 5,200 homes, several schools and daycare centres, a hospital, many businesses and many environmentally sensitive areas. For details see Sherwood Park News, St. Albert Gazette and CBC News coverage; and this RETA blog.
Jan. 1, 2012
Hope For The Hills – An Inspiration
Read this article in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin for some inspiration on how a group of people opposed to an overhead high voltage line in their community has managed to stop construction of the line (even after construction started). Hope For The Hills, together with key politicians, convinced the California Public Utilities Commission to stop construction of the line and order Southern California Edison to review the feasibility and cost of several alternatives. Read this RETA blog for more details.
Dec. 13, 2011
No One Wants Overhead Transmission Lines
There most likely isn’t a new high voltage power line proposed anywhere in North America that is not opposed by someone. For example residents near Tucson, Arizona indicate a proposed line with 140 to 199-foot-high steel monopole towers would be an “eye-sore” (aka “ugly”) that would ruin their view. Ohio residents don’t want a new above-ground transmission line to cut through their properties because they know their property values will significantly decrease. If you can believe it, a First Energy staffer in Ohio said, “We need to base where that line should go on technical criteria and not the fact that somebody doesn’t want it in their back yard…” This sentiment is so common within the electricity transmission industry…that is, industry doesn’t care about the negative impacts of their overhead lines on people, they just care about building them where it’s the easiest and presumably the cheapest. Burying high voltage lines eliminates the negative property value, environmental, health, safety, visual, tourism, livestock and crop impacts of above-ground lines. It’s time the electricity industry joined the 21st century. If transmission lines were buried in specific circumstances when they run near homes, schools and environmentally sensitive areas, people would not be opposed to them.
Dec. 9, 2011
AltaLink Continues to Deceive Landowners
This letter to the Prairie Post editor points out how AltaLink continues to mislead landowners and homeowners into believing that they actually consider environmental and residential impacts when siting new high voltage power lines. The Heartland 500kV line is a classic example of AltaLink intentionally ignoring all of the facts on the negative impacts of the overhead line on 5,200 homes (over 15,000 people) and many environmentally sensitive areas under or next to the line. The letter encourages Albertans who are approached by AltaLink regarding new proposed high voltage power lines near their homes, schools and environmentally sensitive areas to contact RETA for the facts.
Dec. 3, 2011
AUC Finally Says “No” to AltaLink
The Livingstone Landowners Group is celebrating, for the moment, because the AUC has ruled that subsequent routes proposed by AltaLink veered away from the originally-proposed route of a new high voltage line between the Pincher Creek area and the Crowsnest Pass. See this Lethbridge Herald article for details. Although the AUC is to be congratulated on catching AltaLink trying to manipulate the regulatory system in this case, they should also have ruled against AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s Heartland Transmission Project application for the same reason because the applicants’ preferred route changed location significantly so many times during the public consultation process and even during the AUC hearing on the Heartland line. It got to the point where residents did not know where AltaLink and EPCOR were actually proposing to build their line, and whether they would be using 60m towers or 77m towers, or lattice towers or monopole towers.
Nov. 30, 2011
Lawsuit Against Overhead Power Line
The controversial Susquehanna-Roseland power line to run through New Jersey and Pennsylvania is being challenged by a lawsuit recently filed in the appellate division of Superior Court. The overhead line has been challenged on a number of grounds including: drop in electricity demand due to reduced energy use and development of renewable energy sources, and negative impacts on the environment including the world-renowned Appalachian Trail. See NJ Spotlight coverage.
Nov. 28, 2011
More Overhead High Voltage Power Lines
Global News reports the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is planning even more overhead high voltage power lines and substations in the Capital Region. There has been a flurry of building new transmission lines in Alberta far in excess of any demonstrable need or demand. Critics say it will needlessly increase electricity charges, and points to the Alberta Government’s desire to export electricity at the expense of Alberta power consumers who pay 100% of the transmission infrastructure costs.
Nov. 28, 2011
Premier’s Broken Promises
This Lloydminster Meridian Booster article suggests it’s difficult to keep track of all the lies and broken promises by Premier Redford. One of many examples cited is the Premier’s overruling of her Energy Minister’s request of the AUC to suspend consideration of the Heartland power line until the government had time to review its approach to new high voltage power lines.
Nov. 22 & 23, 2011
National Park Service Says No to Power Line
Further to RETA’s earlier reports on the proposed Susquehanna-Roseland high voltage power line, the U.S. National Park Service has said the best environmental option for the line as proposed through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is not to build the line at all. The 145-mile-long 500kV line, proposed by PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service and Gas, is also opposed by residents, businesses, and environmental groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania due to all of the negative impacts of above-ground high voltage lines on property values, safety, health, and the environment. As well, the overhead lines are just simply ugly. See lehighvalleylive.com and Times-Tribune articles.
Nov. 19 & 22, 2011
Land Use Bill Changes “Cosmetic”
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith called the government’s proposed changes to the controversial Land Assembly Project Area Act (Bill 19) “cosmetic”, and said anything short of repealing the law will not fix the problem. The legislation makes it easy for the government to designate private land for a high voltage power line corridor without adequate input from, or compensation to, landowners. See this Edmonton Journal and Sherwood Park News article.
Nov. 11, 2011
Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) Obsolete
In the wake of the recent decision by the AUC that the Heartland power line be built above ground, and the Market Surveillance Administrator’s (MSA) decision to fine TransAlta only $370,000 of the $5.5 million it overcharged its customers, this Sherwood Park News editorial suggests the AUC and MSA are obsolete and it’s time to purge the institutions.
Nov. 11, 2011
Strathcona to Appeal Heartland Decision
The Sherwood Park News reports that Strathcona County will be appealing the recent AUC decision on the Heartland line. There has been overwhelming anger over the AUC decision which said it is in the public interest to build an overhead 500kV power line next to 5,194 homes, several schools, a hospital, many businesses and many environmentally sensitive areas.
Nov. 9 – 18, 2011
TransAlta Manipulates Power Prices
TransAlta was found guilty by the Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA) of manipulating electricity prices, artificially inflating prices for all provincial consumers while pocketing the profits. See Calgary Herald, Calgary Beacon, Epoch Times and Edmonton Journal articles. Unfortunately, the MSA issued a fine to TransAlta of only $370,000, whereas the estimated actual cost of TransAlta’s infraction to consumers is a whopping $5.5 million. The scandal highlights the fundamental flaws in the Alberta market, including having the highest-cost electricity at the end of the hour setting the price for the entire hour. The Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta says this is yet another glaring example of how Alberta’s open market fails to protect consumers and shows how toothless the role of the MSA really is. All Opposition parties hammered the P.C. Government for creating this problem in the first place by deregulating the market, which now grossly favours the power industry over consumers. Similar failures in power market deregulation experiments have occurred in the U.S. (see this RETA post.) Alberta consumers now pay some of the highest electricity prices in Canada.
Oct. 31, 2011
Time to Stop Coal-Fired Power Generation
The President and CEO of Enmax indicates in this Calgary Herald article that the main reason all of the new high voltage power lines are being proposed (e.g., Heartland, Eastern Alberta, Western Alberta lines), is to move power from dirty coal-fired generation near Edmonton throughout Alberta. This flies directly in the face of federal standards for greenhouse gas emissions; the federal government has called for coal-fired generation to transition to cleaner and more environmentally-friendly power generation such as natural gas-fired. Enmax rightfully argues that gas-fired plants, such as Enmax’s new Shepard Energy Centre in Calgary, locates the generation right next to where the power is needed and thereby eliminates the need for long and expensive transmission lines (such as proposed by the Alberta Government,the AESO, coal producers and transmission companies.) Coal-fired generation in Alberta contributes one of the highest percentages of total provincial power output of any province in Canada. Other provinces rely to a much greater extent on hydro, natural gas-fired, wind and solar power generation.
Oct. 25 & Nov. 8, 2011
Heartland Line Compensation Considered
Sturgeon County Council has tabled a motion that would direct County administration to develop a bylaw to use County revenues received from the Heartland power line (and subsequent projects) to compensate landowners negatively and unfairly impacted financially by such industrial projects. The basis for the motion is “the present system of compensating landowners negatively impacted or affected by linear infrastructure is unfair, inequitable and inadequate, resulting in affected landowners bearing a cost far in excess of benefits received”. See article 1 and article 2 in the Morinville News. Sturgeon County residents are concerned about the significant property devaluation associated with the massive Heartland line that has been approved by the AUC. The line will run near many homes in the northeast part of the County. Unfortunately, the Alberta Government has no legislation that obligates transmission companies like AltaLink and EPCOR to financially compensate homeowners and businesses for significant property value losses near overhead high voltage lines, and the transmission companies consistently refuse to recognize such property devaluation. (See RETA Fact Sheet #9 for details on property devaluation.)
Oct. 16, 2011
Power Line Protesters Intimidated
Peura Village residents in Indonesia have been intimidated by representatives of PT Poso Energy, the district government and the local parliament, over their opposition to having high voltage towers erected in densely populated areas. Villagers are worried about the health impacts of electromagnetic fields from an overhead line. The energy company has not consulted with the community, and is working closely with government officials and legislators to ram the project through. One local legislator told the villagers, “There is no impact from overhead high voltage power lines. If you are not going to listen to us, we won’t listen to you.” See this Inside Indonesia article for details. This is somewhat similar to the manner in which transmission companies, Alberta Energy and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) work very closely together to get new high voltage power lines built in Alberta. These entities all argue that overhead power lines have no negative impacts on health, even though the scientific and medical literature indicates otherwise. Here in Alberta, the provincial government has even passed legislation precluding anyone other than itself from questioning whether new high voltage lines are needed.
Oct. 14, 2011
Councillor Intimidated by Tory MLA?
CBC News reports that Sturgeon County Councillor Karen Shaw says Athabasca-Redwater Tory MLA Jeff Johnson told her the provincial government would cut funding to her municipality if she didn’t stop opposing the province’s land use legislation. Bill 19 and Bill 36 have Alberta landowners worried and upset that this legislation passed by the Alberta Government has eliminated their right to stop utilities like overhead high voltage power lines from crossing their property. St. Albert lawyer Keith Wilson says he was repeatedly told that local councillors did not attend information meetings he spoke at about the land use and power line legislation, under threat from their local P.C. MLAs that they could lose their provincial funding.
Oct. 13, 2011
Involve Public in Power Line Conversation
The Lavesta Area Group encourages Premier Redford, in this letter to the Lacombe Globe, to repeal Bill 50 and restore the public’s right to question the need for new high voltage power lines. The letter says this would only be fair since the public is paying for these new lines. An informed conversation based on facts and evidence is required to determine what’s best for Albertans, as opposed to what’s best for AltaLink and other transmission companies.
Oct. 12, 2011
New Premier Should Repeal Bill 50
The proposed Heartland power line and other Bill 50 high voltage lines legislated by the P.C. government are massive overbuilds, states this letter to the St. Albert Gazette. Premier Redford should fix the mistakes her predecessor made on electricity transmission, rather than indicating that two of the Bill 50 lines are needed. For example, the Industrial Heartland Association has clearly stated the Heartland line exceeds any reasonable power demands in the Heartland region.
Oct. 10, 2011
Politicians Can’t Evaluate Need for Power Lines
This letter to the Calgary Herald indicates politicians don’t have the skill set to evaluate the need for new high voltage transmission lines. The writer says it should be regulators, engineers and the public who should evaluate the need for new lines. When the Alberta Government passed Bill 50 in 2009, public input was taken away and decisions left solely with Cabinet.
Oct. 4, 2011
ENMAX – Smart Power Producer
Today, ground was broken for ENMAX’s new Shepard power plant on the eastern edge of Calgary. The $1.3 billion mega-project will see a natural gas-fired plant produce half of Calgary’s current power needs and half of the carbon dioxide emissions of a coal-fired plant (such as the one that will feed the proposed Heartland power line from Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland). By building this much “greener” power plant right where the electricity is needed, there will be no need for long expensive high voltage transmission lines such as those currently planned by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO). See CBC News coverage. Overhead high voltage power lines have many negative impacts on health, safety, the environment, property values, aesthetics and overall quality of life for those people who live near the lines.
Oct. 3, 2011
Tell Premier Redford “No” to Heartland Line
The Landowners Against Bills Society of Alberta (LABSA) encourages Albertans to write to Premier Redford and correct her recent statements that the proposed Bill 50 Heartland power line is needed. The proposed line is a massive overbuild and not necessary for industrial growth in the Industrial Heartland. (Strathcona County, Edmonton City Council, Sturgeon County, Industrial Heartland Association, Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, RETA, and many other interveners at the recent AUC hearing on the proposed Heartland line have all opposed the building of the line.)
Oct. 3, 2011
Chino Hills Continues Fight Against Line
The City of Chino Hills will continue its battle against Southern California Edison’s proposed high voltage power line through the City by asking the California Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeal’s decision that the Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction on the routing of the line. Residents and the City have many concerns about the proposed above-ground line including visual impact, danger of towers and lines falling onto homes, property devaluation and health impacts of electromagnetic fields. See this Inland Valley Daily Bulletin article.
Sept. 27 & 30, 2011
Doug Horner on Electricity Transmission
Articles in the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Herald and Sherwood Park News report that Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner has promised, if he becomes Premier, to issue a request-for-proposals to bury power lines such as the proposed Heartland Transmission Project. He wants to find out how much it really costs to bury high voltage power lines, and then determine whether those additional capital costs warrant burying lines in special circumstances when they run close to high-density areas. (RETA’s expert testimony at the recent Alberta Utilities Commission hearing on the proposed Heartland line indicates that a partially buried Heartland line could cost as little as only 15% more to build than an entirely above-ground line. However, if capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs are combined over the life of a line, a buried line can be cheaper than an above-ground line.) Horner also said his government would conduct a review of how competitive Alberta’s entire electrical system is, including an analysis of how transmission lines are built and financed, consumer protection, and a strategy on alternative fuels and power generation. He’s also recommending a new mandate for the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).
Sept. 24, 2011
Towers Unsightly and Cause Health Issues
The proposed 150-mile-long CapX2020 $1.9 billion overhead high voltage power line in Minnesota and Wisconsin would have massive towers that are unsightly, and some people will lose the use of their land. As well, people living near the line would have increased risks of many health problems including leukemia. This Post Bulletin editorial suggests the line should be built where it affects the fewest homeowners.
Sept. 23, 2011
Put Brakes on Old Coal Technology
Unlike in other provinces, coal-fired electricity generation comprises the vast majority of power generation in Alberta. This letter to the Edmonton Journal points out that coal-fired plants pump significantly more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than other types of generation (e.g., gas-fired, hydro, wind, solar). The writer says we need to put the brakes on unfettered development of old coal technology. The federal government is clamping down on this dirty electricity producer, but existing coal-fired plants will be allowed to continue until they expire.
Sept. 20, 2011
Bill 50 Stealing from Albertans
This letter to the Barrhead Leader suggests that Bill 50 , passed by the Alberta Government in 2009, is a thief that has stolen Albertans’ right to question the need and accounting for new high voltage power lines in our province. The letter describes the overbuild of electricity transmission infrastructure that will needlessly cost Alberta industry, other businesses and homeowners billions of dollars.
Sept. 20, 2011
Damages Caused by Overhead Power Lines
With all of the recent hurricanes and other high winds in North America, overhead power distribution and transmission lines have caused millions of dollars in damages so far this year. For example, the worst wildfire in Texas’ history was caused September 4, 2011 by power line sparks igniting dry vegetation underneath 2 separate lines, after winds had blown trees into the lines. So far, 1,500 homes have been burned and 2 people have been killed. Just think of how many lives and how many homes and other infrastructure would be saved if electricity distribution and transmission lines were buried.
Sept. 16, 2011
Local Wildrose Candidate on Power Lines
Garnett Genuis, the Wildrose Party candidate for the Sherwood Park constituency, reminds Albertans that the Wildrose Party has always been opposed to the Heartland power line and Bill 50 (that took away public involvement in reviewing the need for new high voltage lines). Genuis suggests the P.C. leadership candidates are trying to distance themselves from the troublesome situation they have helped create. See this Sherwood Park News letter.
Sept. 16, 2011
Enmax Reducing Need for Power Lines
Construction has started on Enmax’s 800 MW natural gas-fired Shepard power plant in southeast Calgary (Calgary Herald article). Benefits are manyfold including: low-cost fuel source, much cleaner burning than all the coal-fired generators in Alberta, and no need for long high voltage power lines to transmit power from coal mining areas to where the power is required. The plant will emit half the carbon dioxide of a conventional coal-fired plant. Unlike Capital Power, TransAlta and Maxim Power, all of which produce primarily coal-fired electricity in Alberta, Enmax is addressing the federal government’s plans to reduce greenhouse gases, while at the same time addressing the growing concerns by Albertans about overhead high voltage power lines.
Sept. 13, 2011
Battle Continues After Court Loss
Following another court fight loss, the City of Chino Hills, California, will continue its battle to stop an overhead high voltage power line (Tehachapi Project) from being built through city neighborhoods. Residents fear the 200-foot-tall “monster towers” could fall on their homes during high winds or earthquakes. They are also worried about increased cancer risks from electromagnetic fields and the reduction of their property values. Residents have suggested the line go underground. See this Inland Valley Daily Bulletin article.
Sept. 9, 2011
Power Line Issues Can Determine Next Premier
As Strathcona County Councillor Vic Bidzinski indicates in this Sherwood Park News column, construction of new high voltage power lines in Alberta has become a hot topic for Alberta P.C. leadership candidates. This has become a particularly hot topic for residents living in the Sherwood Park and Edmonton Greenbelts, where AltaLink, EPCOR, the AESO and the Alberta Government want to build an overhead 500kV Heartland power line with 77-metre-tall towers. Councillor Bidzinski gives an example of a woman, who has never before voted Conservative, willing to buy a P.C. membership so she can vote for the candidate (Rick Orman) who has promised to get the Heartland line buried.
Sept. 9, 2011
Local Doctor Supports Rick Orman
Sherwood Park Dr. Stan Kolber took out a full-page ad in the Sherwood Park News indicating his and Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk’s support for Rick Orman as Alberta’s next Premier. Rick Orman, one of 6 Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates, has been unequivocal in stating that, if he becomes Premier, he would get the proposed Heartland line buried, as well as other new special circumstance high voltage lines that run close to densely-populated residential areas and schools.
Sept. 8, 2011
Power Line Impacts on Boreal Forest
Heading into its fourth term in office, the Manitoba NDP is committed to building a new high voltage power line on the west side of Lake Winnipeg, in order to protect the east side’s pristine boreal forest. Although the west route will cost more, the NDP want to protect the world’s largest carbon sink and the high biodiversity on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, hoping to promote the area as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See this rabble.ca article. (This is an excellent example of the extent to which overhead high voltage power lines negatively impact the natural environment and tourism – to the point where the Manitoba Government is willing to spend more money to have the line built in an area where its environmental impacts will be lower.)
Sept. 7, 2011
Power Line Appearance and Safety Concerns
The State reports that Richland County Council and the Town of Blythewood, South Carolina, have concerns about the appearance and safety of a proposed new above-ground high voltage power line. Blythewood officials are concerned about the visual impact of an overhead line on their gateway into town. State Rep. Joe McEachern is also concerned about how many trees would have to be cleared for the power line right-of-way. (Buried high voltage power lines are not visual eyesores and do not pose the health, electrocution and other safety hazards that above-ground lines do. As well, since the right-of-way for buried lines is much narrower than for overhead lines, less vegetation including trees need to be cleared.)
Sept. 4, 2011
Politicians Worried about Overhead lines
The British Secretary of State for Defence and Member of Parliament for North Somerset, Liam Fox, has sided with the Protect Kent branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which is campaigning to stop huge swaths of countryside from being dominated by high voltage transmission lines. See this yourcanterbury.co.uk article. If National Grid is given permission to build overhead lines, sensitive landscapes would be damaged, and the towers and lines would be a visual blight for residents and tourists. The campaign chairman has said the cables should be buried. National Grid has inflated the cost of burying the lines to 12 times that of building them above ground, whereas campaigners have more realistically estimated the undergrounding capital cost at less than 2 times that for overhead lines. (When capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs are combined over the life of a line, underground lines can actually be cheaper than overhead lines.)
Sept. 2 & 8, 2011
Candidates Continue Sparring Over Bill 50
At a forum September 1 in Red Deer and September 7 in Calgary, the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates continued debating Bill 50, the legislation passed in 2009 by the Alberta Government that put an end to public consultation on the need for new high voltage power lines in the province. See Edmonton Journal coverage (article 1, article 2).
Sept. 1, 2011
Jurupa Valley Continues Opposition to Line
Jurupa Valley City Council and residents continue their opposition to Southern California Edison’s proposed 230kV overhead high voltage power line. They are concerned about the impacts of an overhead line on health (electromagnetic fields), commercial development and the environment. See this Press-Enterprise article.
Aug. 29, 2011
Underground Power Line Options Included
Underground options are included for three of four possible routes for two American Transmission Company high voltage power lines planned for Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Underground options are included due to residents’ worries about the impacts of overhead lines on public safety and property values. See this Journal Sentinel article.
Aug. 26, 2011
Legislation Concerns Most P.C. Candidates
The Lethbridge Herald reports that Rick Orman, Gary Mar, Alison Redford and Doug Griffiths expressed concerns about electricity transmission/land use legislation or Alberta ratepayers paying to export electricity out of Alberta. All 6 P. C. leadership candidates attended a forum in Lethbridge Thursday evening.
Aug. 24, 2011
Power Line Raises Cancer Concerns
The Tillamook Headlight Herald reports that residents from Tillamook to Oceanside, Oregon are worried about cancers associated with a proposed high voltage line through their communities. They’re also concerned that the line will diminish the value of their land.
Aug. 23, 2011
Albertans Willing to Pay for Buried Lines
An Edmonton resident writes to the Sherwood Park News that Albertans would not be willing to pay any extra costs to have a segment of the proposed Heartland line buried. Based on a Leger Marketing public opinion survey conducted of a cross-section of 900 Albertans in October 2009, Albertans are willing to pay an additional $3.55 on their monthly power bill to have high voltage lines buried in Alberta when they run close to people’s homes or schools. (This Fact Sheet summarizes the survey results.) A partially buried Heartland line would cost the average Albertan only a cup of coffee a year. That would be for any additional capital cost to bury the line – however, when you combine the capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs plus add the property devaluation and health costs of an overhead line over the life of the line, a buried line is cheaper than an overhead line.
Aug. 22, 2011
MAPP Line Delayed
The Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway high voltage line has been delayed by PJM Interconnection and Pepco Holdings Inc. Under pressure from the public worried about their local landscapes, the proposed 152-mile-long line from northern Virginia to Delaware had already seen its route change to reduce its aerial segment and run more of the line underwater. See this Stardem.com article. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is pleased with the announcement of the delay, indicating that the need for the line was never proven from the beginning. (Sound similar to the proposed Heartland Transmission Project?)
Aug. 20, 2011
New Rules for Coal-Fired Power Plants
Long-awaited federal regulations were announced August 19 to gradually phase out traditional coal-fired power plants. New coal-fired plants that begin producing power after July 1, 2015 will have to match the lower greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas-fired plants. Ironically, Alberta’s Environment Minister, Rob Renner, whose mandate is to protect the environment, expressed concern because Alberta has the highest dependence on dirty coal-fired power in the country. Unfortunately, the new regulations will not apply to any coal-fired plants that feed power into the grid before July 2015; the tougher rules would not apply until the end of the life of those plants. An example of a new coal-fired plant that is being rushed through by the Alberta Government and the Alberta Utilities Commission before July 15, 2015, is the Maxim Power Corp. plant near Grande Cache. See this Edmonton Journal article. Alberta’s dependence on so much coal-fired generation is the reason the government and the AESO have planned for so many new high voltage power lines criss-crossing the province. These lines would not be needed if more natural gas-fired plants were built closer to where the power is consumed.
Aug. 20 & 30, 2011
Power Lines Political in Lebanon
The Lebanon Daily Star reports (article 1, article 2, article 3) that a new overhead power line planned to run very close to homes in several towns has residents worried about health impacts, especially on children. They are calling the line an environmental hazard. Real estate prices are also falling significantly because of the power line in the area. Residents have urged the government to place the transmission lines underground. They indicate they will not vote for politicians who support the above-ground project, and some residents are even blocking contractors from building the line. A local doctor says the Precautionary Principle should be followed, and cites a Council of Europe resolution that reads “…power lines…appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals as well as the human body even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.”
Aug. 19, 2011
Power Line Concerns High in Heartland
A recent survey found that, within the regional context, Industrial Heartland residents are concerned about health care and power lines. The Sherwood Park News reports that Alberta Environment and the Life in the Heartland initiative co-funded the survey of 600 Edmontonians and Industrial Heartland residents.
Aug. 17, 2011
Property Value Impacts of 500kV Line
The Boulder Monitor reports that NorthWestern Energy will be studying the impacts of 500kV power lines on property values in Montana. This is in response to residents telling regulators that building a 500kV intertie line in their subdivision would significantly reduce the value of their properties. Residents estimate impacts of 50% property devaluation, and are also concerned about impacts on health, water quality, vistas and wildlife.
Aug. 16, 2011
Enbridge Assumes Power Line Debt
Enbridge Inc. is purchasing Tonbridge Power Co. and assuming all debts associated with the controversial and financially troubled Montana Alberta Tie Line (MATL). The 215-mile-long overhead 230kV line from Lethbridge to Great Falls Montana has been stalled for some time now due to financial difficulties and opposition from Montana landowners. See this Great Falls Tribune article and Marketwire article.
Aug. 14 – 17, 2011
Power Line Bills Anger Rural Albertans
Articles in the Edmonton Journal, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune and Ponoka News report on the growing number of rural Albertans who are angered by power line and land use bills passed by the Alberta Government that have diminished or in some cases taken away property rights. Meetings have been held across the province educating Albertans about these bills, and the more they learn about their implications, the more angry they get.
Aug. 13, 2011
Company Able to Reroute Line
Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. is another example of a power transmission company that will indicate they are not able to change their power line routing, if that is in their best interest. On the other hand, if it is in their best interest to reroute their line, they will do so. It becomes a challenge to know when these companies are telling the truth. See this Daily Inter Lake article.
Aug. 12, 2011
Wildrose Candidate Opposes Heartland Line
Garnett Genuis is the official Wildrose Party candidate for the provincial constituency of Sherwood Park. This Sherwood Park News article reports that Garnett and the Wildrose Party oppose the proposed Heartland Transmission Project but that if there is a need for transmission lines they should be kept away from residential areas. In his campaign brochure, Garnett’s first listed priority is “Cancel the Heartland Transmission Project”. He says residents have voiced strong opposition to the project, particularly on the west side of Strathcona County where the line is proposed. Some residents have even told him they’ll move if the line gets built above ground. “If it dampens growth on the west side of the city, if people who have called this community home for a long time choose to move elsewhere, it’s going to be really unfortunate”, he said. “It has real potential to hurt the vibrancy of this community.” Garnett goes on to say, “I think our community, in particular, has been really taken for granted by our government. We see that around the Heartland Transmission Project and around the new hospital.”
Aug. 12, 2011
Coal Plant Will Dodge Federal Regulations
Further to RETA’s coverage of the Pembina Institute’s legal challenge on this matter, this Edmonton Journal editorial rightfully raises the warning flag on the AUC’s recent decision to allow Maxim Power Corp. to dodge new federal regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dirty coal-fired power plants. A quote from the editorial reads: “Our province has enough trouble already with attacks on our environmental reputation by outsiders all too quick to place the worst interpretation on our efforts. Those efforts will be undermined if a new coal plant using today’s technology is approved in a way that suggests our hearts aren’t really in finding ways to meet the higher emissions standards we talk about.” More information appears in this Calgary Herald article.
Aug. 12, 2011
Montana Alberta Tie Line in Trouble?
Tonbridge, the company building the controversial Montana Alberta Tie Line (MATL), has suspended trading of its stock pending an undisclosed announcement. See this The Republic coverage.
Aug. 9, 2011
AltaLink Will Force Its Way Onto Land
AltaLink does not have permission from 38 landowners to go onto their properties to survey for a proposed high voltage transmission line from Cassils to Bowmanton. Despite any blockades that have been put up by landowners, AltaLink has said it will begin marking the route with stakes in the next week or two. See this Brooks Bulletin article for details. Residents across Alberta are upset with all of the recently-proposed high voltage and extra high voltage power lines planned by the Alberta Government and the Alberta Electric System Operator, and being approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission.
Aug. 9 & 11, 2011
Controversial Power Line Laws a Concern
This Vermilion Standard article and Lloydminster Meridian Booster article report on the growing concern by Albertans over the controversial electricity transmission legislation passed by the Alberta Government in 2009. At the time, landowners across the province opposed the proposed Bills; however, the Alberta Government went ahead and passed them into law. Bill 19 freezes private land for power line and other utility corridors, while Bill 50 removes public input on the need for new super-high-voltage power lines.
Aug. 4, 2011
Albertans Deserve Who They Vote For
This letter to the Edmonton Journal suggests that Albertans will continue to be frustrated with the overbuilding of electricity transmission infrastructure, funded 100% by Alberta ratepayers, as long as they continue to vote for the Alberta P.C. Party.
Aug. 4, 2011
Bury Lines to Avoid Power Outages
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is implementing a new Line Load Shed Service to help deal with power outages caused by weather conditions such as lightning strikes. See this Calgary Herald article. If high voltage power lines were buried, they would not be susceptible to lightning strikes or other weather-related outages (e.g., tornadoes, ice storms). Unfortunately, the AESO, Alberta Energy and Alberta transmission facility owners are reluctant to bury high voltage lines, which means Alberta ratepayers will continue to pay the additional costs for repairs to overhead lines and towers due to weather-caused outages. Find out more about the many benefits of burying high voltage power lines.
Aug. 4, 10 & 21, 2011
Residents Worried About Power Line EMFs
Jurupa Valley, California residents are worried about the health impacts of electromagnetic fields that would emanate from a proposed above-ground 230kV Southern California Edison power line. They are also concerned about the unsightly transmission towers and the negative effects of overhead lines on development potential. The Jurupa Valley City Council opposes the line, along with a long list of other government agencies. See this August 4 article, August 10 article and August 21 article in the Press-Enterprise.
Aug. 3 & 4, 2011
Draconian Alberta Electricity Laws
Lawyer Keith Wilson continues to educate Albertans about their landowner rights that have been taken away by electricity and other land use legislation passed by the Alberta Government. See this Lacombe Globe article and Hanna Herald article.
Aug. 3, 2011
Court Challenge Over Coal-fired Power Plant
The Pembina Institute has filed a court challenge over the fast-tracked approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission of a 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant near Grande Cache, Alberta. Approval of the proposed Maxim Power Corp’s power plant avoided federal changes to environmental regulations aimed to reduce the huge quantities of greenhouse gases emitted by dirty coal-fired electricity generation in Canada. See this Edmonton Journal article for details. Coal-fired plants generate about 60% of the electricity in Alberta, the highest in the country, whereas other provinces are focusing on generating greener electricity through renewable resources or the cleaner burning of natural gas.
Aug. 2, 2011
Liberal MLA Would Repeal Electricity Laws
Liberal leadership candidate, Hugh MacDonald, would repeal Bill 19 which freezes private land for transmission projects, and Bill 50 which took away public input on the need for all the proposed massive high voltage power lines in Alberta. See this Peace River Record-Gazette coverage.
Aug. 2, 2011
B.C. Hydro Line Should Have Been Buried
This Castlegar Source article describes the poor decision by the B.C Government and B.C. Hydro in 2008 to build a high voltage power line above ground near homes and a high school in Tsawwassen. Residents had rallied to get the line buried due to serious health concerns about electromagnetic fields, but the line was built above ground. Taxpayer dollars were used to spy on, intimidate and harass the families who spoke out the loudest against the lines. A massive public relations campaign and offensive was waged against the homeowners by B.C. Hydro. In the end, B.C. Hydro bought up many of the houses affected by the line, and flipped them at a loss of millions of taxpayer dollars. It would have been cheaper and far less disruptive to have buried the line in the first place.
July 31, 2011
Power Line Forum Disheartening
This letter to the Edmonton Journal editor expresses frustration over the controlled manner in which Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates were asked questions about electricity transmission in Alberta at a recent forum in Vermilion. The writer, who has an ATCO 500kV high voltage power line proposed to “be built in front of our living room window”, is upset that Albertans have no say on whether massive 500kV lines are necessary, yet must foot 100% of the costs of all this new infrastructure, while the transmission companies assume no financial risk, in fact are guaranteed a handsome investment return.
July 31, 2011
Power Deregulation Has Not Worked
Power deregulation in the U.S. has not worked because ratepayers are generally paying more for electricity under deregulated markets. When power markets were deregulated, the theory was that an openly competitive market would bring savings to ratepayers. However, electricity is a “natural monopoly” say experts, which means cartels end up setting and controlling prices. See this Las Vegas Review Journal article. (This phenomenon is certainly evident in Alberta where electricity generation and sales were deregulated by the Alberta Government in 2001. As a result, Albertans have seen their electricity costs skyrocket with only a handful of companies monopolizing the market.)
July 30, 2011
ATCO Profits Soar – Ratepayers Lose
Northern Alberta wildfires so far this year burned up $27 million worth of power lines and gas meters owned by ATCO Ltd., but ATCO’s earnings and profits won’t suffer. ATCO anticipates ratepayers will cover the loss, and has asked the Alberta Utilities Commission to approve their request. See this Edmonton Journal article for details. At the same time, ATCO posted a 5% increase in profits for the second quarter, driven by a 28% growth in earnings. And, ATCO’s subsidiary, Canadian Utilities, reported a whopping 30% increase in adjusted earnings for Q2. The private electricity transmission industry in Alberta is one of the only industries in the country that operates with essentially zero financial risk plus a guaranteed minimum annual return of 9%. Alberta ratepayers assume all of the financial risk. All of this is thanks to the Alberta Government.
July 29, 2011
More on Electricity Export
A number of excellent stories appear in this Watershed Sentinel article on electricity export from Canada and possibly under-sea from Alaska to Russia.
July 28, 2011
AltaLink Continues to Misinform
This Red Deer Advocate article reports on information provided to residents attending an AltaLink open house on additional high voltage lines planned between Wetaskiwin and Didsbury. AltaLink staff continue to misinform Albertans by downplaying the impacts of overhead high voltage line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and overstating the costs to bury these lines to eliminate the negative impacts of EMFs on health, aesthetics, safety, property values and the environment. The article reports AltaLink informed a woman she does not need to worry about EMFs interfering with the safe operation of her pacemaker. The fact is, doctors advise those with pacemakers to stay away from overhead high voltage power lines, especially over prolonged periods of time. (Prolonged exposure would include those who live, work or attend school near overhead high voltage lines.) The article also reports AltaLink staff told an individual it costs 10 times as much to bury high voltage lines as to run them above ground. This is absolutely false. The fact is, when you combine the capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the life of a line plus the additional health care and property devaluation costs of overhead lines, buried lines are cheaper than overhead lines. See these facts.
July 27, 2011
Residents Want Line Built in Open Fields
Residents of Denton, Texas are pushing their city officials to build an upgraded high voltage power line through open fields instead of neighbourhoods. See this Denton Record-Chronicle article.
July 26, 2011
Is the Heartland Battle Lost?
This Sherwood Park News editorial suggests that any activities of Strathcona County, RETA, many other groups and individuals to influence where and how the proposed Heartland power line is built are futile. The editorial suggests the Heartland line will be built above ground in Strathcona and Sturgeon Counties through the Sherwood Park and Edmonton Greenbelts next to 5,194 homes, several schools and daycare centres, a hospital, and many environmentally sensitive areas. RETA strongly disagrees with this editorial.
July 24, 2011
Power Line – Property Values, Jobs, Costs
The proposed Northern Pass Project will have significant negative effects on New Hampshire residents. The project, proposed jointly by Northeast Utilities, NStar and Hydro-Quebec, could see adjacent property values diminish by up to 63%. Tourism jobs will be lost once the line is built because these overhead high voltage power lines will be massive and unsightly. New Hampshire residents will not benefit from lower cost Hydro-Quebec power because the line will simply run through New Hampshire from Quebec to Massachusetts and Connecticut. See this Seacoast article.
July 21, 2011
CapX2020 Power Line Impacts of Concern
Citizens, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and members of Power Line Truth continue expressing their concerns about the $450 million project, CapX2020, that would construct more than 100 miles of above ground high voltage power lines in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Potential impacts identified include: endangered species, water resources, agricultural lands, airports, aesthetics and property values. Some argue the line isn’t even needed in the first place. See Winona Daily News article.
July 21, 2011
National Park Service Pushed on Power Line
The U.S. National Park Service is being pressured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent to rush its environmental impact statement on the proposed 500 kilovolt Susquehanna-Roseland Power Line. The above ground line, which would be built in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, would cross the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and other federal lands. Environmental groups are accusing those pushing for speedy project approval of undercutting the National Park Service and pushing an environmentally destructive and unnecessary project. See this Express-Times article.
July 19, 2011
More on High Costs of Unnecessary Lines
Meetings continue around Alberta on legislation passed by the Alberta Government that infringes on Albertans’ property rights and will result in skyrocketing electricity costs in the future. Opposition parties have been pushing for some of this legislation to be repealed, and several candidates for leader of the Alberta P.C. party have indicated they can’t support some of these legislative changes as passed. See Camrose Booster article.
July 15, 2011
Kudos to Strathcona on Heartland Line
In this letter to the Sherwood Park News, RETA extends kudos to Strathcona County Council for its strong and consistent opposition to an above-ground Heartland power line proposed by AltaLink and EPCOR in the Sherwood Park and Edmonton Greenbelts. The power companies’ preferred route, supported by the Alberta Government, would see the line being built next to 5,194 homes, several schools, a hospital and many natural areas in Edmonton, Strathcona County and Sturgeon County.
July 14, 2011
220-Mile-Long Power Line to be Buried
National Grid and Banghor Hydro Electric Company have proposed to build a 220-mile-long, 1,100 megawatt high voltage DC line underground from northern Maine to northeastern Massachusetts. See Smart Grid article. (An underground line will eliminate all of the negative impacts of an above ground line. Why can’t transmission facility owners in Alberta be similarly progressive and build underground high voltage lines?)
July 13 & 14, 2011
Power Line Company Bullies Landowners
Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. (MATL) of Calgary, Alberta is suing landowners in Montana for 105-foot-wide rights-of-way for their high voltage power line from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls, Montana. MATL is now suing more than 30 individuals, family trusts, and family farming operations in Teton, Pondera, Cascade and Glacier Counties. Local landowners say MATL is one of the most ill-managed projects they have ever had to deal with. See these Choteau Acantha and Great Falls Tribune articles.
July 13 & 27, 2011
Power Line Will Interfere with Flights
Baraboo city officials are worried the 345kV Badger Coulee Transmission Line proposed by American Transmission Co. will interfere with flight operations at the Baraboo-Wisconsin Dells Airport. See this July 13 article and July 27 article in the Baraboo News Republic. (If the line was buried, there would be no concerns in this regard.)
July 12, 2011
Strathcona County & RETA Final Arguments
This Sherwood Park News article reports on final arguments submitted by the County of Strathcona and RETA to the Alberta Utilities Commission on the proposed 500 kilovolt Heartland Transmission Project application by AltaLink and EPCOR. Arguments for denying the application or directing that the line be buried include: the line is not needed; the applicants’ public consultation process was seriously flawed; the applicants conducted a very poor route selection process; the applicants’ above ground preferred route option through the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts would directly and adversely impact too many people; the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts (TUCs) were never intended for overhead high voltage power lines; the underground option is the best option because it would eliminate negative visual, property value, health, safety, environmental, social and economic impacts; and, the underground option capital costs are only a bit higher than the overhead option (although combined capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the life of the line are less for the underground than the overhead option).
July 9 & 21, 2011
Federal Coal Regulations Side-Stepped
This letter to the Edmonton Journal editor by the Pembina Institute describes how a dirty coal-fired power plant proposed by Maxim Power Corp. north of Grande Cache, Alberta has tentatively side-stepped the federal government’s commitment last year to phase out conventional or dirty coal plants in favour of more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly power production. The Alberta Utilities Commission fast-tracked approval of the coal-fired power plant by foregoing a public hearing on the proposal, while the federal Environment Minister apparently helped quietly rush through this approval. The proposed coal-fired power plant would emit more than 3,000,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution every year. Alberta is already the largest producer of dirty coal-fired electricity in Canada…now it will be even worse. An earlier Edmonton Journal article provides more details on how this project contradicts the federal government’s new coal regulations which require any new project to release greenhouse gas emissions equal to or less than a natural gas-fired power plant. This later letter to the Edmonton Journal editor indicates coal-fired power plants emit more greenhouse gases than tar sands projects, and approval of the Maxim Power Corp. coal-fired plant means Canada is breaking one of its international promises on the environment.
July 5, 2011
Power Line Towers Collapse
CBC and Post Media News report that two 230-kilovolt B.C. Hydro towers collapsed on the banks of the Fraser River July 5, causing a blackout that affected 25,000 properties in Surrey, New Westminster and Abbotsford, British Columbia. The cause has been attributed to accelerated erosion which destabilized the towers. Similar erosion concerns have been raised during the AUC hearing on the proposed Heartland Transmission Project along the proponents’ preferred route which would involve the construction of 7 towers within the North Saskatchewan River valley. Burying high voltage power lines would eliminate problems and save money associated with erosion, high winds, ice storms and other weather factors causing above ground towers and lines to collapse.
July 1, 2011
Strathcona County Says Scrap Bill 50
As part of its continuing support for County residents who think the proposed Heartland power line is not needed or if it is built to bury it, Strathcona County Council voted unanimously to challenge Bill 50. They want to meet the Alberta Ministers of Energy and Sustainable Resource Development to discuss rescinding or amending the Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 which took away the right of the public to be consulted on the need for new high voltage power lines dubiously labeled as “critical transmission infrastructure” by the Alberta Government. See this Sherwood Park News article for details.
June 27, 2011
Montana Alberta Tie Line Over Budget
As a result of regulatory delays, legal challenges, and landowner and contractor disputes, the MATL merchant transmission project from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls, Montana is $25 million over budget. The developer of the line, Tonbridge Power Inc., is seeking additional funding from its stakeholders. The MATL is the first high voltage power line to connect Alberta with the U.S. and is seen by many Albertans as the beginning of electricity export from Alberta to the U.S. See Calgary Herald article.
June 27, 2011
Health & Safety Concerns Over 500kV Line
Chino Hills, California residents rallied in front of Southern California Edison’s headquarters, protesting the company’s plans to build a 500kV line within 154 feet of their homes. Residents are concerned the 170-mile-long Tehachapi Project would have cancer and other negative health effects, and that the giant towers could fall over in an earthquake or high wind storm. The City of Chino Hills is preparing a lawsuit appealing the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision approving the 200-foot-tall towers. See NBC Los Angeles coverage.
June 26, 2011
Wildrose Would Repeal Power Line Bills
Wildrose party members voted June 25 to support Danielle Smith’s insistence that a Wildrose government would repeal several power line and land use bills including Bills 50 and 19, passed by the Stelmach government in 2009. Bill 50 legislated the building of numerous 500 kilovolt power lines in Alberta without any needs assessment or accountability. Several of these lines have been handed to transmission facility owners on a silver platter without any competitive bidding. Bill 19 gives the Alberta government the unilateral authority to designate private land as a future corridor for high voltage power lines or other utilities, thereby sterilizing the land for any other potential uses. The Wildrose party has been gaining support across Alberta for its strong stand against this controversial power line legislation.
June 24, 2011
Don’t Build Power Lines in Populated Areas
Residents from Clark and Cowlitz Counties, Washington demonstrated against an above ground 500 kilovolt power line planned by the Bonneville Power Administration. Concerns about health, especially of school children, and property values top the list of concerns. Some residents also describe the proposed towers and lines as an eyesore. Their primary argument is that high voltage lines should not be built in populated areas. See The Columbian coverage.
June 21, 2011
Alberta Utilities Commission No Help
This letter to the Sherwood Park News suggests that the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) “… is here to make sure these lines go through no matter who it affects, because this government agency has public involvement in these decisions only to make the people think they have a say.”
June 20-27, 2011
345kV Line Worries Wisconsin Residents
WKBT News, Wisbusiness, Capital Newspapers, the La Crosse Tribune and Channel 3000 report that a 150-mile-long overhead 345kV high voltage power line proposed by American Transmission Company from the La Crosse area to northern Dane County in Wisconsin has residents concerned about health, safety, noise, the environment, stray voltage, land devaluation and reliability. Groups such as Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) and the Town of Stark Committee on Energy Planning and Information are also demanding that the overall need for the proposed Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project be proven by the proponent.
June 20, 2011
Overhead Power Line Impact on Birds
Wildlife enthusiasts are concerned that a 250-mile-long above ground power line planned by Minnkota Power Cooperative from Center to Grand Forks, North Dakota will uproot several grassland bird species including the western meadowlark, North Dakota’s state bird. This Grand Forks Herald article reports concerns about truck traffic greatly disturbing several grassland species that nest on the ground in tall grass. Predatory birds using high voltage lines and towers as places to perch would also have an unfair advantage over grassland birds which are on the decline. Bird mortality caused by crashing into above ground high voltage lines is a serious concern as well (see RETA Fact Sheet #11).
June 16, 2011
Morton and Redford Critical of Power Lines
Alberta P.C. leadership candidates Ted Morton and Alison Redford, previous Cabinet Ministers under Premier Stelmach, are both critical of the Alberta Government’s insistence that 2 high voltage transmission lines be built from central to southern Alberta. This Yahoo News story reports that Premier Stelmach is wading into the debate and criticizing Ms. Redford. (It is well known that Alberta Energy has been pushing for all of the additional high voltage lines to be built in Alberta, even though they are not necessary – other than for export of electricity to the U.S.)
June 14 & 16, 2011
Montana Alberta Tie Line in Trouble
The CEO and Chief Financial Officer of Toronto-based Tonbridge Power Inc. have stepped down amidst construction problems and landowner court challenges. Tonbridge, the developer of the Montana Alberta Tie Line (MATL) between Lethbridge, Alberta and Great Falls, Montana, is shutting down construction of the controversial power line, pending resolution of a dispute with its engineering, procurement and construction contractor. At the same time, Tonbridge Power Inc. has taken legal action to take easements on land owned by 11 Dutton-area, Montana residents who are suing the company, challenging the state’s new eminent domain law and the MATL project. See June 14 and June 16 Great Falls Tribune articles for details.
June 4, 2011
Where Were Tory MLAs on Bill 50 Debate?
Wildrose MLA, Rob Anderson, asks in this letter to the Calgary Herald, where were P.C. leadership candidates Ted Morton and Alison Redford when the Wildrose Party introduced a motion to repeal Bill 50 in April? These two candidates, who are former Cabinet Ministers, are now expressing concerns about Bill 50 which excludes any public input on determining the need for new 500kV power lines in Alberta.
May 31-June 1, 2011
Alberta 500 Kilovolt Power Lines Not Needed
This letter to the Calgary Herald editor by Alberta P.C. leadership candidate Ted Morton and article in the Mountain View Gazette provide further evidence on why new 500kV power lines planned by the Alberta Government are not needed. Albertans and Alberta businesses and industry cannot afford the cost of all the new electricity transmission infrastructure legislated in Bill 50.
May 31, 2011
Questioning Benefits of Heartland Line
This letter to the Sherwood Park News questions the benefits of the proposed Heartland Transmission Project, and notes that a growing number of politicians are also questioning its need.
May 30, 2011
North Wales Residents Want Lines Buried
Residents want proposed new high voltage power lines buried underground and at sea to protect the sensitive landscape of North Wales. More than 1,500 people protested outside the National Assembly. See Daily Post article.
May 26, 2011
More on AB Electricity Export – WikiLeaks
May 25, 2011
P.C. Leadership Candidates on Bill 50
This St. Albert Gazette article reports that P.C. leadership candidates Ted Morton and Gary Mar favour revisiting Bill 50 which legislated the building of numerous 500kV power lines in Alberta with no public input on the need for these lines. Candidate Doug Horner says there is no need to revisit or scrap Bill 50, while Doug Griffiths thinks there should have been more public input on Bill 50 and other electricity transmission-related legislation before it was passed.
May 24, 2011
Alberta Party Questions Reasons for Bill 50
Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor questioned Bill 50 when it was being debated in 2009 and in fact recommended an amendment, and now questions whether it was all about exporting electricity to the U.S. He says Alberta power consumers should not foot the bill for construction of these lines that would provide major profits to a few transmission companies. See Dave Taylor news release.
May 24, 2011
AUC Can Make Right Heartland Decision
This letter to the Sherwood Park News editor challenges the Alberta Utilities Commission to make the decision that is in “the best interests of Albertans”, rather than succumbing to the self-serving special interests of the transmission companies.
May 20 & 21, 2011
Landowners Sue Over Power Line Law
Landowners in Teton and Pondera Counties in Montana have filed a lawsuit against Montana and a power transmission company, claiming that a recently-passed eminent domain law is unconstitutional. Montana passed House Bill 198 earlier this month to retroactively permit power companies to take private land for high voltage transmission lines. The law was triggered by the proposed Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. power line to run from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls, Montana. The lawsuit says overhead high voltage power lines have known negative impacts on human health and safety. See Missoulian and Great Falls Tribune articles.
May 19, 2011
AltaLink’s Parent Co. Building Jail in Libya
RETA has just become aware that Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, the parent company that owns 100% of AltaLink, has been doing business with Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi since 1986. Apparently, SNC-Lavalin has signed deals worth well over $1 billion with Gadhafi. SNC-Lavalin’s annual revenues in Libya apparently totaled $279 million in 2009 and $418 million in 2010. Most shocking is the revelation that SNC-Lavalin is now building a $275 million state-of-the-art prison for Gadhafi in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, according to this rabble.ca article. AltaLink is considered one of Alberta’s leading electricity transmission corporations, and is currently applying to build the Heartland Transmission Project and the Western Alberta Transmission Line, both 500kV lines. What will Albertans think once they find out that AltaLink’s parent company, SNC-Lavalin, is apparently building a jail in Libya for Gadhafi to fill with protestors?
May 17-24, 2011
Ted Morton Wants Review of Bill 50
Alberta Progressive Conservative leader candidate, Ted Morton, has released his policy on electricity transmission in Alberta and has stated that as Premier, he would “immediately re-visit the transmission plans in Bill 50” by ordering an independent and impartial needs assessment by a panel of qualified experts. Morton emphasized Bill 50’s potential negative impact on Alberta’s competitiveness and the future viability of Alberta companies and their employees. Other Tory leadership candidates (Gary Mar and Alison Redford) also have concerns about Bill 50 and the projected high costs of electricity transmission to Alberta ratepayers. See Ted Morton news release, Alberta Surface Rights Group blog, Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald (1), Calgary Herald (2), Edmonton Journal (1), Edmonton Journal (2), Cochrane Eagle, and Camrose Booster coverage for details.
May 17-24, 2011
WikiLeaks Reveals Alberta Electricity Export
WikiLeaks cables recently released show the Alberta Government promised senior U.S. government officials as far back as 2003 that there would be abundant electricity exports available from Alberta, but that limited transmission lines were a major impediment to electricity flowing south. The leaked documents indicate that the Montana-Alberta Tie Line and TransCanada’s Northern Lights power line project would run Alberta-produced electricity to Montana and Oregon. Critics charge that the Alberta Government has planned all along that Alberta ratepayers would pay for the expensive transmission lines to export power to the U.S. Bill 19 and Bill 50, passed by the Alberta Government in 2009, are both integral elements of the government’s plans to ship Alberta electricity south at Albertans’ expense. In spite of the leaked documents clearly revealing the Alberta Government’s plans, Alberta Ministers such as Hon. Ron Liepert and MLAs like Dave Quest continue to deny any such plans. See Calgary Herald, Wildrose Caucus, Edmonton Sun, CBC, Oilweek, Vue Weekly, Red Deer Advocate and Sherwood Park News coverage for details.
May 17 & 18, 2011
More Concerns About Bill 19 and Bill 50
This letter to the Edmonton Journal points out the draconian legislation (Bills 19 and 50) that have removed Albertans’ input on important electricity transmission decisions. This letter to the St. Albert Gazette suggests that, because Bill 50 “has made it illegal for the AUC to refuse the (Heartland) project”, the AUC hearing on this proposed line is nothing more than a “kangaroo court”.
May 14 & June 24, 2011
Canadians and Americans Oppose Line
Opposition mounts in Quebec and New Hampshire against the proposed overhead 290-kilometre high voltage power line planned by Hydro-Quebec. The project, dubbed Northern Pass, has raised concerns amongst adjacent landowners about health, property values, visual impacts, lost revenue for tourism-related businesses and the fear that relatively cheap power from Quebec will discourage homegrown sources of renewable energy. The line has been estimated to reduce the value of the land in the immediate area of the line by more than $1 million per lineal mile of line. See this Montreal Gazette article and The Nashua Telegraph article.
May 13 & 14, 2011
Negative Economic Impact of Heartland Line
Industry and business representatives indicated at the AUC hearing on the Heartland Transmission Project that building this line and other planned 500kV lines in Alberta could well drive business and industry out of Alberta. (These 2 sectors pay about 80% of the total transmission infrastructure costs in Alberta, while residents pay about 16% and farms about 4%.) Legislation passed by the Alberta Government in 2009 dictates that specific 500kV lines must be built without any public review of their need. Albertans are already paying some of the highest electricity rates in Canada. See Edmonton Journal, Global TV and CHED News coverage.
May 13, 2011
Heartland Line Moved But Should Be Buried
This letter to the Sherwood Park News indicates that HALO (Homeowners Against Lines Overhead) triggered AltaLink and EPCOR to move their preferred route for the Heartland line a short distance farther away from residents in Sherwood Park. HALO is still pushing for the line to be buried because it is both feasible and affordable.
May 12, 2011
Heartland Hearing Coming to a Close
The Alberta Utilities Commission has completed 5 weeks of its hearing on the proposed double circuit Heartland power line, and should be wrapping up in another week or so. See this iNews 880 coverage for details.
May 9, 2011
Industry Warns of Skyrocketing Power Bills
The Alberta NDP released a letter sent to the Alberta Progressive Conservative Caucus showing Alberta homeowners, business and industry will pay higher power bills once all of the 500kV lines legislated by Bill 50 are built and energized. See CTV News and Canada Views coverage.
May 6, 2011
Heartland Power Line Route Changed Again
On April 26, one-half way through the AUC hearing on this project, AltaLink and EPCOR surprised everyone by altering their preferred route, moving the line farther away from some residents, but closer to other residents and a dense network of pipelines that could well pose a serious hazard. This Sherwood Park News article reports details of the last-minute changes by AltaLink and EPCOR. Up to this point, AltaLink and EPCOR had argued at the AUC hearing that they had spent the last 3 years carefully negotiating with Alberta Infrastructure on the precise location of their preferred route within the Sherwood Park Greenbelt. (At the AUC hearing on May 5, Strathcona County residents had made it clear that moving the line a bit farther away from some homes but closer to others is not what they had been asking for; rather, they insisted that the line be buried as it would negatively affect 5,200 homes (15,000 to 18,000 people). Along the rural segment of their preferred route, and along their alternate route, AltaLink and EPCOR have made many routing changes, which has left landowners confused about where the proposed line actually is. The news article also reports on the AltaLink fiasco where one of its land agents had made a number of intimidating comments to a rural landowner in an attempt to get him to sign an agreement permitting 5 Heartland towers to be built on his land.
May 4, 2011
Crossfield Mayor Against AltaLink Line
Crossfield Mayor Nathan Anderson does not support AltaLink’s proposed Western Alberta Transmission Line because he says no one has proven it’s needed, and we need to decide whether dirty coal-fired electricity generation is the best source of power for Alberta. See this Rocky View Weekly article for details.
April 29 & 30, 2011
AltaLink Apologizes at Heartland Hearing
AltaLink publicly apologized at the AUC Heartland hearing for the appalling conduct of a land agent it hired to make deals with landowners along AltaLink’s preferred route. Among other comments, the land agent had said the Premier and the Alberta P.C. Party support AltaLink, the AUC had already made up its mind that the line was going to be built in the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts, and that AltaLink’s alternate route was nothing more than a bureaucratic optics show. This was but one more example of the flawed public consultation process conducted by AltaLink and EPCOR for the proposed Heartland line. See Edmonton Journal and iNews 880 coverage of this story.
April 30, 2011
No Power Line in Transportation Corridor
This Arizona Republic article reports that the federal Bureau of Land Management declined to allow a utility company to use a transportation corridor for a new 500 kilovolt power line because nearby residents had concerns about health, property values and environmental impacts.
April 29, 2011
Strathcona Mayor Urges Community Fight
Strathcona Mayor Linda Osinchuk continued to urge Community members to join the fight countering an overhead Heartland power line. See this Sherwood Park News article.
April 26, 2011
Power Line Buffer Zone Bylaw Clarification
Councillor Vic Bidzinski clarifies in this letter to the Sherwood Park News that there would be no expropriation of land associated with a possible bylaw to create a buffer zone for power lines. Rather, if such a bylaw was passed, it would be used as a tool to challenge the building of overhead high voltage power lines in the County of Strathcona.
April 26, 2011
Opposition to Bill 50 Continues
Articles and letters in the St. Paul Journal and St. Albert Gazette highlight just how upset Albertans continue to be about the Alberta Government ramming Bill 50 through the Legislature in November 2009. Bill 50 took away the public’s right to question the need and accountability for new high voltage power lines in Alberta. The Wildrose Alliance attempted unsuccessfully to repeal the legislation through a motion introduced by MLA Rob Anderson, but the P.C. majority defeated the motion. See this Airdrie City View article and Wildrose news release for details.
April 25, 2011
Power Line Devalues Property By Up To 91%
This New Hampshire Union Leader article reports property devaluation up to 91% resulting from a proposed 180-mile-long Northern Pass high voltage power line planned from Quebec to Deerfield, New Hampshire. Meanwhile, the transmission company’s website indicates “small” property value impacts “in the range of 3-6 percent”. (Electricity transmission companies in North America have intentionally been downplaying the property value impacts of above-ground high voltage power lines for decades because they do not want to bury these lines.)
April 24, 2011
Alberta P.C. Government Intimidation
A St. Albert lawyer, and former provincial Tory, speaking out against land Bills 50 and 19 passed in 2009 by the Alberta Government says the provincial government intimidates individuals who challenge government legislation and policies. Both Bills, now law, have given the Alberta Government more powers regarding high voltage power line need and siting to the point where Alberta citizens have very little input anymore. See this Edmonton Journal article.
April 24, 2011
Power Line Approval Bill Killed – Arizona
A Bill aimed at streamlining approvals of interstate power lines was killed by a coalition of environmental groups, the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation and the Arizona Cattle Growers Association. See this Arizona Daily Star article for details. (Sounds similar to the Bill 50 battle in Alberta.)
April 24, 2011
California Residents Don’t Want New Line
Residents of Chino Hills, California have complained that new overhead towers and lines, slated to cut through a 5-mile stretch of the city’s neighbourhood, will impact safety, health, city views and property values. The City filed a complaint in court claiming that the project would “overburden the easement over City property”. See this Daily Bulletin article.
April 23, 2011
Power Companies Can’t Take Your Land
This letter to the Edmonton Journal suggests that landowners in Canada cannot be forced to surrender their land for a high voltage power line.
April 23, 2011
P.C. MLAs Lose Debate on Land Bills
A well-attended debate in Eckville on April 21 saw P.C. leadership contender Ted Morton attempting to defend controversial Bills 19, 24, 36 and 50 (two of which directly affect electricity transmission in Alberta). Based on this Responsible Power blog, the crowd didn’t buy his arguments that this legislation does not strip Albertans of land rights.
April 21 & 22, 2011
Bury the Line Residents Tell AUC
Residents who would live next to the proposed overhead Heartland power line asked the Alberta Utilities Commission to direct AltaLink and EPCOR to bury the line. They cited health, environmental, social and aesthetic concerns including possible closure of schools. Residents were appreciative of the AUC’s efforts to hear their concerns by having a special Community Hearing Session in Sherwood Park. See Sherwood Park News and CBC coverage.
April 21, 22 & 27, 2011
Power Bills in Alberta to Sky Rocket
Based on documents from the Alberta Direct Connect Consumers’ Association, the Alberta NDP says electricity bills in Alberta will jump by 65% by 2013. Because the Alberta Government passed Bill 50 in 2009, there is no accountability for spending on electricity transmission infrastructure, and higher electricity costs will render Alberta businesses less competitive. See Edmonton Journal, iNews 880 and Peace River Record-Gazette coverage.
April 21, 2011
Too Many Hearings – Too Few Experts
Albertans are complaining there are too many high voltage power lines being planned at the same time, and therefore too many applications before the Alberta Utilities Commission. Legal representation and experts are in short supply, and MLA Rob Anderson says, “It looks dirty on the side of the government. It doesn’t look fair. It swamps people.” See this Red Deer Advocate article.
April 21, 2011
Taking Property for Power Line in Montana
This Independent Record article reports that the controversy continues regarding debate on legislation that would ensure a Canadian company has authority to take property for its power line project in northern Montana. The proposed Montana Alberta Tie Limited power line is planned from Great Falls, Montana to Lethbridge, Alberta.
April 20, 2011
Health Risks of Overhead Power Lines Real
This St. Albert Gazette article reports that, under cross-examination by RETA, AltaLink expressed concern that it is difficult for them to convince the public there are no health effects of overhead high voltage power line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) when groups like RETA provide information to the public indicating there are health risks.
April 19, 2011
Attend Sherwood Park AUC Hearing
This letter to the Sherwood Park News encourages Strathcona County residents to attend the AUC Community Hearing Session Wednesday, April 20, 7:00 p.m. at the Coast Edmonton East Hotel in Sherwood Park.
April 19, 2011
Not Giving Up Fight
This letter to the Sherwood Park News says regardless of how the odds may be against winning the battle to get the Heartland line buried, Strathcona County residents can’t give up.
April 17, 2011
Strathcona County Up Next at AUC Hearing
Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk indicates in this iNews 880 interview that Strathcona’s lawyer will be asking some tough questions of AltaLink and EPCOR at the AUC Heartland hearing.
April 17, 2011
Heartland Power Line Hearing “Fix Is In”?
Two St. Albert residents suggest in this letter and in this letter to the Edmonton Journal that few people have shown up at the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearing on the proposed Heartland line because Albertans have lost trust in the Alberta Government and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO). The writers further suggest that the Alberta Government and the AESO have already determined the outcome of the hearing, and that the government has stripped not only the rights of landowners but of the AUC as well.
April 15, 2011
“The Fight of Our Lives Is Before Us”
Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk says, regarding the proposed Heartland power line, “The fight of our lives is before us.” She points out in this Sherwood Park News column that the line is the largest threat ever to the County’s residents and business owners’ health, property value and environment, as well as the fundamental identity of the County.
April 15, 2011
Learn to Live with Lines?
This column in the Sherwood Park News suggests that we might as well learn to live with these ugly above ground high voltage line towers because not enough people seem to care about their negative health, safety, environmental, property value and aesthetic impacts. (When the writer of the column, Alan Dunn, was a County Councillor in March 2009, he introduced a motion that Strathcona County only accept high voltage power lines if they are buried. The motion was unanimously supported by Council.)
April 13, 2011
Views Differ at Heartland Hearing
This St. Albert Gazette article reveals the different viewpoints held by AltaLink/EPCOR and the thousands of residents who would be directly impacted by the Heartland line. Residents want the line buried when it runs close to homes, schools, daycares, hospitals and environmentally sensitive areas, while the transmission companies do not think eliminating the health, safety, property value and environmental risks by burying part of the line is worth it financially. The irony is that the combined capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs over the life of the line are less for an underground than for an overhead line.
April 13, 2011
AESO and Alberta Government Forecasts Off
This letter to the St. Albert Gazette suggests both the Alberta Government and Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) are notorious for overestimating future electricity and transmission demands and underestimating their costs. The letter goes on to say electricity generators and transmission companies have been given a blank cheque, all at the expense of Alberta consumers.
April 12, 2011
Alberta Power Lines Not Needed
The Landowners Against Bills Society, Alberta Direct Connect and Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta continue to question the need for the Heartland power line and others dubiously labeled “critical transmission infrastructure” by the Alberta Government in Bill 50. See this St. Paul Journal article and letter to the editor.
April 12, 2011
Minnesota Residents Worried About Line
April 11, 2011
Heartland AUC Hearing Kicks Off
Following are a few media stories on the kick off of the Alberta Utilities Commission hearing on the proposed Heartland power line: CTV Edmonton, CHED News, CBC News and iNews 880. See AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 1 for details.
April 10, 2011
Coal More Dangerous than Nuclear Power
This Edmonton Journal article reports on a comprehensive study that suggests coal-fired electricity generation is far more hazardous to human health and safety than nuclear-powered electricity generation. “Compared with nuclear power, coal is responsible for five times as many worker deaths from accidents, 470 times as many deaths due to air pollution among members of the public, and more than 1,000 times as many cases of serious illness, according to a study of the health effects of electricity generation in Europe.” (This does certainly not bode well for Alberta, considering over 50% of Alberta’s electricity is produced by coal-fired generation, and Alberta produces more coal-fired electricity than any other province in Canada. For example, the proposed 500kV Heartland line will transmit power from coal-fired electricity generation at Wabamun. )
April 8, 2011
City of Edmonton Says Bury the Line
The City of Edmonton will be carrying the message of “Bury the Line” into the Alberta Utilities Commission hearing starting next week at Edmonton’s EXPO Centre. City Council says Edmonton residents are worried about the negative health, safety, property value and aesthetic impacts if an overhead Heartland power line is built. See Edmonton Sun, CTV, Edmonton Journal, Global TV, CBC, CHED News and iNews 880 coverage.
April 8, 2011
AUC Decision Goes to Court
The Lavesta Area Group has won the right to appeal a decision by the Alberta Utilities Commission to pay AltaLink $38.6 million for preliminary work on a proposed Edmonton-Calgary power line that was scrapped in 2007 due to a spying scandal. See this Edmonton Journal article and news release for details. The Lavesta Area Group wants the Heartland AUC hearing suspended until the appeal is over. An AUC spokesperson says the hearing will proceed until such time as the Heartland panel receives a motion to suspend the hearing.
April 8, 2011
Billions “Needed” for Power Grid Update?
The Conference Board of Canada has conducted research that suggests $294 billion is needed to update electricity generation and transmission in Canada. The utility industry-funded research suggests the lion’s share of the funding ($196 billion) is required for power generation, with a focus on renewable and low-carbon emission sources. (This certainly places Alberta off-side with the Conference Board recommendation, considering most electricity in Alberta is generated by coal-fired plants which emit the highest volumes of greenhouse gases. And, the provincial government continues to support construction of new coal-fired plants, while the federal government has said coal-fired generators need to transition to cleaner and more efficient generation.) The Conference Board suggests the remaining $98 billion is required for new and refurbished transmission and distribution systems. (The transmission industry can expect public pressure to build to bury high voltage power lines in response to health, safety, environmental and property value concerns, especially considering the overall costs to bury these lines over the life of a line are lower than for overhead lines.) See this Edmonton Journal article for details.
April 6, 2011
Heartland AUC Hearing to Start April 11
In this St. Albert Gazette article, RETA briefly discusses how it will focus on burying the Heartland line at the upcoming Alberta Utilities Commission hearing. RETA’s experts will testify that a partially buried Heartland line would cost less than 9% more than an entirely above-ground line, which is a rounding error in the electricity transmission industry.
April 6, 2011
NDP Criticizes Alberta Electricity Matters
This Fairview Post article reports that NDP Leader Brian Mason has criticized the Alberta Government’s handling of electricity legislation, deregulation and unnecessary transmission lines.
April 5, 2011
Strathcona Considers Power Line Buffer
Strathcona County is investigating the possibility of passing a motion that would create a buffer zone adjacent to overhead high voltage power lines in the County. This Sherwood Park News article reports that Council raised the possibility of such a motion as another part of its battle against an overhead 500kV Heartland transmission line.
April 5, 2011
Wildrose Would Cancel Heartland Line
When commenting on the proposed Heartland line, Garnett Genuis, the Wildrose Alliance candidate for Sherwood Park, indicates in this Sherwood Park News article that “We need a government that will cancel that project”.
April 5, 2011
Gary Mar Weighs in on Heartland Line
Gary Mar, one of the five Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates, recently indicated in Sherwood Park that the following factors need to be taken into account with respect to the proposed Heartland line: how much power is needed, is it feasible to bury the line, how would it affect the school that is close to the line, and how would it affect people’s property values? See this Sherwood Park News article for details. (RETA agrees with Mr. Mar.)
April 5, 2011
Bonnyville Residents Want Line Buried
MD of Bonnyville residents discussed their research on health effects of an overhead ATCO Electric power line proposed for their community. Residents are proposing an underground line. See this Bonnyville Nouvelle article.
April 2 & 4, 2011
Australians Don’t Want Overhead Power Line
Sunshine Coast, Australia residents are fighting plans by Energex to build overhead high voltage lines from Palmwoods to Pacific Paradise. They argue overhead lines would pose a health threat and would damage wildlife corridors, biodiversity and water quality across the region. Some residents want the power lines buried. They plan to go to court, and one individual has said he will knock down the poles if they’re built. See April 2 and April 4 articles in the Sunshine Coast Daily.
April 1, 2011
Hydro-Quebec Northern Pass Plans Rejected
This Montreal Gazette article reports that New Hampshire residents are solidly opposed to Hydro-Quebec’s plans to boost its New England power sales by building a 180-mile above-ground transmission line. Residents are protesting the impact this line will have on clearing forests through scenic regions, lost viewsheds for residents, fewer tourists and tourist dollars, and lower property values. Opponents have called for the power companies to bury the transmission lines that would interfere with their “postcard-quality scenery”. Residents in Quebec are concerned about the line being built too close to homes, dairy cattle and gas pipelines.
April 1, 2011
Has Call to Bury Line Been Heard?
This Sherwood Park News column asks the very serious question of whether or not the “rally cries to put the lines underground have been heard.” RETA could not agree more. The column goes on to indicate that the Heartland Transmission Project would have been a lot harder to complete if the Alberta Legislature had not passed Bill 50 in November 2009. (Strathcona County, the City of Edmonton, Colchester School Parents’ Association, RETA and many others have been pushing hard to get the Heartland line buried whenever it runs close to homes, schools, daycares, hospitals and environmentally sensitive areas.)
April 1, 2011
Premier Doesn’t Understand Electricity Bills
This letter to the Edmonton Journal points out how upset Albertans are about Bills 19, 36 and 50, two of which have significant impacts on electricity transmission in our province. In spite of the overwhelming evidence of their negative effects on cost-effective electricity transmission and landowner rights, Premier Stelmach continues to support the legislation. The Landowners Against Bills Society of Alberta continues to press for the repeal of the three Bills.
March 31, 2011
RETA on the Cost of Electricity
RETA, the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta, and the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta discussed the sharply rising costs of electricity in Alberta on this Alberta Primetime program. RETA made the point that Alberta’s heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity generation along with its attendant expensive long transmission lines adds significantly to Albertans’ monthly electricity bill.
March 29, 2011
Weather Hits Overhead Alberta Lines
This Edmonton Journal article reports that poor weather and salted roads caused power outages in numerous places across Alberta this past weekend. Had the lines been buried, these outages would not have occurred.
March 28, 2011
TransAlta Treats Alberta Differently
This Calgary Herald article reports that TransAlta is going ahead with a second wind energy project on the Gaspe Peninsula. While TransAlta is to be commended for its efforts in the much more environmentally-friendly wind energy industry outside Alberta, it is unfortunate that the corporation continues to build new coal-fired electricity generation capacity (Keephills 3) in Alberta which entails a huge carbon footprint.
March 27, 2011
Eastern U.S. Wants Power Line Buried
Opponents argue the proposed Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway high voltage transmission line, planned for Delaware, Virginia and Maryland, is not needed. Concerned groups say the new towers would harm three vital industries – agriculture, forestry and seafood; and would harm Eastern Shore habitat. If the line is proven necessary, affected parties want the line buried. See Delmarva Now coverage.
March 25, 2011
More on Bury The Line Rally
This Saint City News article and Sherwood Park Independent article report on the Bury The Line rally at the Legislature March 19. Rally participants, including numerous politicians, criticized the Alberta Government over legislation that has taken away citizens’ ability to protect their homes and their health. Protesters questioned the need for all of the new high voltage lines planned by the Alberta Government, and want the lines buried if they are built close to homes and schools. The actual costs of partially burying the proposed Heartland line are becoming more important as the AUC hearing date approaches. The applicants, EPCOR and AltaLink, estimate almost twice the cost to partially bury the line compared to building it entirely above ground. RETA’s experts estimate the underground option would cost only 9% more than the above ground option. The petition recently presented to MLA Dave Quest by Mayor Linda Osinchuk supporting burying the Heartland line contains about 4,500 signatures. See this Sherwood Park News article for details.
March 25, 2011
Hanna Residents Angry Over ATCO Line
Hanna area residents at an Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) information session were angry the Alberta Government’s legislation (including Bill 50 and Bill 19) has taken away their right to fight the proposed ATCO Electric 500kV HVDC line from Redwater to Brooks. This Hanna Herald article reports that residents are also suspicious this line is all about exporting electricity from Alberta to the United States. AUC representatives indicated to residents the Alberta Government’s Bill 50 has already determined this line is necessary, and as a result the AUC’s “only responsibility is for getting the approved line from point A to point B”.
March 23, 2011
Health Fears – Overhead Power Lines
The Scottish Government is accused of ignoring potential health dangers from overhead high voltage power lines. Ministers are refusing to acknowledge the growing body of evidence linking high voltage power lines to childhood leukemia, Alzheimer’s, adult brain tumors and decreased sperm count. See The Press and Journal article for details.
March 22, 2011
Brooks Area Residents Worried about Line
Residents along a preferred and alternate route for an AltaLink 240kV double circuit power line planned between Cassils and Bowmanton have presented their arguments to the Alberta Utilities Commission. Interveners raised environmental and visual impact concerns. See this Brooks Bulletin article.
March 22, 2011
Bonnyville Residents Concerned about Line
This Bonnyville Nouvelle article reports that residents along a proposed ATCO Electric power line are concerned about negative health, property value and environmental impacts of an above ground line. Residents appear to favour an underground line. See this editorial in the same paper.
March 22, 2011
U.K. Council Presses for Underground Line
The North Somerset, U.K. Council continues to press for a 400 kilovolt power line to run underground. Residents are concerned that an above ground line would destroy the countryside, drive down property values, and have possible effects on people’s health. See this Evening Post article.
March 19-22, 2011
Strong Turnout at Power Line Rally
About 500 adults and several hundred children turned out at a public rally meant to send a strong message to the Alberta Government to bury high voltage power lines whenever they are built close to homes, schools, daycares, hospitals and environmentally sensitive areas. See the following media coverage of the rally: i880 News, Edmonton Journal, CBC News, CHED News, Global TV Edmonton, Global TV Winnipeg, Global TV Calgary, CTV News, Sherwood Park News.
March 19, 2011
Bury the Line Rally – Alberta Legislature
AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s preferred route for the proposed Heartland power line will directly impact 5,200 homes (15,000 to 20,000 people). RETA is sending the Alberta Government a strong message to bury high voltage power lines whenever they are built close to homes, schools, daycares, hospitals and environmentally sensitive areas. See iNews 880 coverage.
March 17, 2011
Alberta Liberals Support Burying Power Line
The March 17, 2011 Alberta Hansard reports that Alberta Liberal Energy Critic, Kent Hehr, supports burying the proposed Heartland Transmission Project. He asked the Alberta Energy Minister several questions, but Minister Liepert dodged each one, erroneously suggesting that the Alberta Utilities Commission will make all the decisions regarding the line.
March 17, 2011
New Lines Will Increase Power Bills
The Alberta Government’s plans to criss-cross Alberta with high voltage power lines, many of them 500 kilovolt, will significantly increase power bills for Alberta consumers. Consumer groups argue such sharp increases in fixed costs will make Alberta less competitive than neighbouring provinces. See Calgary Herald article for details.
March 17, 2011
Australian Community Wants Line Buried
For three years, the Gold Coast Australia airport, hospital and City Council have continued their calls for the majority of high voltage power line upgrades between Currumbin and Tugun to be buried. They indicate above ground lines “would be an eyesore and a blight on our vista”. The Gold Coast City Council has renewed its calls to put key sections of the proposed line underground near residential areas and in areas of high visibility. See Goldcoast.com.au article for details.
March 17, 2011
Power Line Concerns New Hampshire
This letter to the Nashua Telegraph suggests the proposed Northern Pass high voltage power line from Quebec to Deerfield New Hampshire would negatively impact the state economy, environment and tourism industry. The writer points out the tourism industry would decline due to the aesthetic impact on scenic landscapes, and the proposed line would disturb ecologically sensitive areas, causing disruption of wildlife habitat and forest fragmentation.
March 15 & 16, 2011
Bill 19 Support Not Smart
This letter to the St. Albert Gazette points out how unpopular Bill 19 (Land Assembly Project Area Act) is with Alberta landowners. Alberta Infrastructure Minister, Ray Danyluk, tried to defend the legislation at a recent town hall meeting in St. Paul, but lost the arguments to lawyer Keith Wilson who has been touring the province educating landowners about this and other legislation that has diminished private landowner rights. Bill 19 allows the Alberta Government to unilaterally designate private land as a high voltage power line corridor. Also check out this article in the St. Paul Journal.
March 15, 2011
P.C. MLAs Don’t Respond to Questions
Of 21 MLAs who received a questionnaire from RETA, only one responded by the February 18 deadline – Rob Anderson, Wildrose Alliance MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere. RETA had sent out the questionnaire February 2, 2011 to the 21 MLAs who are slated to have one of the newly-planned 500kV power lines legislated by Bill 50 run through their constituencies. The survey asked numerous questions about the need for the lines, their impacts, and whether or not these lines should be buried in certain circumstances. See this Sherwood Park News article and RETA news release for details.
March 15, 2011
AESO Should be Removed
This letter to the Sherwood Park News editor suggests the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) should be removed because of their “misguided, outdated and incongruent policies” with respect to Alberta’s electricity transmission system. The letter goes on to say, “The Bill 50 transmission projects need to be stopped and the province’s $16.5 billion transmission plan needs to be re-evaluated…..”
March 14, 2011
Strathcona Heartland Petition Complete
A petition signed by Strathcona County residents opposing an above ground Heartland Transmission Project is complete and will be presented to MLA Dave Quest to table in the Alberta Legislative Assembly. See iNews 880 coverage.
March 13, 2011
Land Act Favours Transmission Companies
This Edmonton Journal column and letter to the editor point out how Bill 36, the Land Stewardship Act, favours the ability of electricity transmission companies in Alberta to build high voltage power lines that would criss-cross our province, with little or no “interference” from private landowners. The letter to the editor also makes reference to the well-known fact that the Alberta Government and transmission companies plan to export electricity to the U.S. through these new 500kV lines paid for by Alberta power consumers.
March 11, 2011
Listen to RETA Speak on Power Lines
Listen to this UPTAG Podcast wherein John Kristensen, VP Technical, RETA, discusses the negative impacts of overhead high voltage power lines and the merits of burying them. Go to the 15:40 minute mark of the Podcast to the beginning of the interview.
March 11, 2011
Applicants Assume They’ll Get Go-Ahead
EPCOR indicates in this Sherwood Park News article that soil testing for towers is being done only in the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts, EPCOR’s and AltaLink’s preferred route for the Heartland power line. RETA suggests that it’s presumptuous for the proponents to go ahead with this work when the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearing hasn’t even started yet. If EPCOR, AltaLink and the Alberta Government want there to be the appearance of a fair and open public consultation process and AUC hearing, they should at least wait until the AUC hands down a decision on which route is selected, or whether any route is given the go-ahead.
March 10, 2011
Line Impacts Property Values and Tourism
A B.C. MLA has indicated there may have been some misrepresentation on the impact of a 230-kilovolt power line in the South Okanagan. Residents, businesses and tourism operators are claiming the upgraded power line will affect their property values and a vital tourism industry. See Black Press article.
March 9, 2011
P.C. MLAs Don’t Recall RETA Questionnaire
This Red Deer Advocate article reports that Hon. Luke Ouellette and MLA Ty Lund do not recall receiving a questionnaire from RETA which asked numerous questions about the proposed Western Alberta Transmission Line slated to go through their constituencies. Only one of 21 MLAs sent the questionnaire responded – Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson. None of the Progressive Conservative MLAs responded.
March 8, 2011
World’s Longest Underwater Cable Planned
Iceland is proposing to provide its geothermal and volcanic energy to Europe by building an under-sea transmission cable between 1,200km and 1,900km long, depending on the destination country. This would make it the longest sub-sea cable in the world. See Mother Nature Network and Yahoo News articles. It’s interesting that other countries are extremely innovative when it comes to running high voltage power lines underground and under the sea, while unfortunately in Alberta electricity transmission corporations do not want to bury high voltage power lines to protect Albertans’ health and safety and our natural landscapes.
March 8, 2011
Capital Power Treats Alberta Differently
While Capital Power invests in cleaner electricity generation outside Alberta, the company continues to focus on dirty coal-fired power generation in Alberta. The company has just purchased a natural gas-fired plant in Connecticut, and is building wind projects in B.C. and Ontario. However, here in Alberta, Capital Power is about to bring yet another dirty coal-fired plant on line at Keephills. See Edmonton Journal article.
March 8, 2011
Power Lines Not Worth the Risk
This writer to the Sherwood Park Newsletters to the editor does not want her children (or any others) to be part of an experiment to find out whether or not high voltage power lines cause serious health problems.
March 5, 2011
Land Bills Big Problem for Government
This Lethbridge Herald opinion says the assault on private landowner rights (Bills 19, 24, 36 and 50) by the Alberta Government is turning into a nightmare for the Progressive Conservative MLAs and Ministers. Two of these Bills (19 and 50) very seriously affect Albertans’ rights with respect to new high voltage power lines.
March 4, 2011
Health – Better Safe Than Sorry
This Sherwood Park News column analyzes some of the medical research conducted on the adverse effects of high voltage line EMFs on health, and concludes that “When it comes to building high voltage power lines near our community, it would be irresponsible to take a chance when lives are at stake.”
March 4, 2011
Dirty Coal-Fired Power Not Needed
The proposed Susquehanna-Roseland Power Line, carrying dirty coal-fired electricity (just like that produced at Wabamun, Alberta) in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, has residents and environmental groups upset. The new line would have towers up to 200 feet high, double the height of existing towers. (Does this sound familiar or what?) Residents and other stakeholders say the line isn’t needed and that it will have serious environmental and health impacts (also sound familiar?). See NorthJersey.com article.
March 3, 2011
Only Two Days Left to Sign Petition
There are only two days left to sign the County of Strathcona’s petition to bury the Heartland power line. See i880 News clip.
March 2, 2011
Citizens Stop 765 Kilovolt Power Line
Stop PATH WV, a citizens’ action group, has stopped the building of a massive 765kV line planned to run from St. Albans, West Virginia to Kemptown, Maryland. Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power had proposed the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline for the past 3 years. Citizens opposed the line on the basis of its major environmental impacts and the need for the line. Due to strong public opposition and pressure on politicians, the power companies have withdrawn their permit applications in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.
Feb. 23, 2011
Strathcona County Supports Residents
Strathcona County Council has issued a news release indicating that AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s preferred Heartland route through the Sherwood Park Greenbelt is adjacent to a greater number of residents and has more schools, daycares and hospitals within 800m of the edge of the Greenbelt. Council has therefore expanded on an earlier Motion by indicating the Alternate West Route makes more sense. Council’s new Motion still argues for burying high voltage lines when located adjacent to densely populated areas anywhere in Alberta. See Sherwood Park News and CTV coverage.
Feb. 18, 2011
Strathcona Continues Power Line Fight
Councillor Vic Bidzinski says in this column that Strathcona County Council will continue to support County residents by questioning the need for the Heartland line; pushing for it to get buried near densely populated areas, schools and environmentally sensitive areas; and insisting that the costs to bury the line be shared over the entire power-benefiting area. He also indicated the Heartland route that runs west of Edmonton should be the preferred route and the Sherwood Park Greenbelt should be the alternate route. Councillor Bidzinski reminds residents to sign the petition started by Mayor Osinchuk to get the line buried.
Feb. 18, 2011
Local Paper Has Opinions on Power Line
More coverage in this Sherwood Park News column on the Heartland Transmission Project, burying the line, and financial assistance to RETA.
Feb. 17 & 18, 2011
Cabinet Hears About Power Line Concerns
Sturgeon County residents gave Alberta Cabinet Ministers an earful of concerns about the Heartland Transmission Project at a February 16 town hall meeting in St. Albert. See this Saint City News article. Among the concerns raised were Bills 19, 36 and 50. This St. Albert Gazette article reports that residents are upset these Bills extinguish landowner rights, allow the Alberta Government to unilaterally designate and regulate development on private land, and streamline approval processes for large power lines.
Feb. 16, 2011
City of Edmonton Says Bury Heartland Line
Edmonton City Council is urging the Alberta Utilities Commission to direct AltaLink and EPCOR to bury the Heartland power line if it passes by heavily populated communities. See this iNews880 radio report.
Feb. 15, 2011
Enhanced AUC Process for ATCO Line
AUC announced an enhanced public process for ATCO’s Eastern Alberta 500kV HVDC Transmission Line. See details here.
Feb. 15, 2011
Colchester Parents Not Exploiting Children
In this letter, the Vice President of the Colchester Parents’ Association takes offense to the Sherwood Park News comments suggesting fear mongering and children exploitation tactics. He concludes by saying, “Bury the lines”.
Feb. 15, 2011
Government Looks to Amend Land Laws
The Canadian Press reports that the Alberta Government is reviewing Bills 19 and 36, and considering amendments to protect private landowner rights including those associated with designating private land for high voltage power lines. The Wildrose Alliance reiterates that it would repeal Bills 19, 36 and 50 if it forms the next Government. Also, the Wildrose Alliance will bring forward a Private Member’s Bill in the Spring Sitting of the Legislature to repeal Bill 50.
Feb. 11, 2011
Power Line Next Challenge – Mayor
Now that funding commitments have been made to Sherwood Park’s new hospital, Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk says in her recent Mayor’s Report that getting the proposed Heartland power line buried is the County’s next challenge if the AUC determines that the line should be built in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt. She encourages residents to sign the petition to bury the line (details provided at “Heartland Power Line Petition” link).
Feb. 10, 2011
Another Unsightly Power Line Planned
Residents of three Wisconsin counties are reported in this article saying a new overhead high voltage power line is not needed and could harm property values, the environment, tourism and aesthetics. Public pressure is mounting across North America for power companies to get serious about using more advanced technologies to both generate and transmit electricity without stringing gigantic ugly towers and lines above ground across the countryside.
Feb. 10, 2011
Groups Ask for Power Line to be Scrapped
A coalition of New Jersey environmental organizations says the proposed Susquehanna-Roseland power line isn’t needed; however, two transmission companies say the line is necessary to prevent potential blackouts. (This sounds similar to arguments made by the Alberta Government to justify charging Alberta electricity consumers over $14 billion for new high voltage lines in Alberta.) Construction of another segment of the New Jersey line is not proceeding due to litigation on environmental grounds. See full story here.
Feb. 8, 2011
Funding to RETA Justified
A letter to the Sherwood Park News points out that RETA is a grass-roots non-profit organization that relies on donations and financial contributions to help educate the public about the health, safety, environmental and property value impacts of the proposed Heartland power line. This letter and another letter to the same newspaper applaud the County of Strathcona for financially assisting RETA.
Feb. 8, 2011
Joe Anglin Continues to Fight Power Lines
The Tyee includes a long article on Joe Anglin’s and the Lavesta Area Group’s continuing battle against the Alberta Government’s $16 billion (and growing) electricity transmission plan that would see high voltage power lines criss-crossing Alberta. Most Albertans are convinced these power lines aren’t needed, or at minimum that the lines as planned by the government would be a significant overbuild.
Feb. 8, 2011
Did MLAs Read Bills Before Voting?
This letter to the Rimbey Review asks whether MLAs read Bills 19, 36 and 50 before they voted on them to make them law. The letter provides a good summary of the contentious parts of the 3 Bills.
Feb. 3, 2011
MLA Questionnaire on Power Lines
This Red Deer Advocate article reports the AUC will be holding information meetings on the AltaLink Western Alberta DC Line proposed from Edmonton to Calgary. The article also indicates RETA has sent a questionnaire to the 21 MLAs affected by the three 500 kilovolt power lines currently proposed in Alberta: Heartland AC Line, Western Alberta DC Line, and Eastern Alberta DC Line. The questionnaire asks the MLAs about their views on need for the lines, their impacts, and whether or not they support these lines being buried. RETA will post results of the questionnaire on this website.
Feb. 2, 2011
ATCO Picks Route for Eastern Alberta Line
ATCO has selected its preferred and alternate routes for its 500 kilovolt HVDC line from Gibbons to Brooks. ATCO will now contact affected landowners and other affected parties for their views. Local landowners, as well as landowners across the province are angry that Bill 50 has taken away their right to be consulted on whether this and other 500kV lines are even necessary. See this Edmonton Journal article.
Feb. 2, 2011
Spruce Grove Opposes Heartland Line
The City of Spruce Grove opposes the Heartland alternate route for a number of reasons including it would interfere with development and expansion plans, trail plans and wildlife movement. The City also indicates that the average Spruce Grove citizen believes these 240-foot towers and lines have negative health and aesthetic impacts. Spruce Grove will be making these arguments at the upcoming AUC hearing on the Heartland line. See Tri Area News article.
Feb. 1, 2011
Strathcona County Gives RETA $95,000
Strathcona County Council has approved a $95,000 contribution to RETA to help the non-profit organization raise awareness about the Heartland Transmission Project. The funding will assist RETA continue educating the public about the project and assist with legal and expert costs that are not reimbursable from the Alberta Utilities Commission. This financial assistance is further indication of the collaboration between Strathcona County and RETA in fighting to get the Heartland line buried. Strathcona County Council has been consistent from early 2009 when it unanimously passed a Motion to accept high voltage power lines in the County only if they are buried. See Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News article.
Feb. 1, 2011
Quest Not Helpful on Heartland Power Line
Strathcona MLA Dave Quest says he understands an overhead Heartland line could close Colchester Elementary School. In this Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News article, he downplays the Alberta Government’s role in the Heartland Transmission Project, even though Alberta Energy has been pushing for the past 3 years to get the line built in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt and the department does not support burying the line. As well, the Alberta Minister of Infrastructure has the final say on whether the 500kV line can be built in the Greenbelt. To top it all off, the Alberta Government passed Bill 50 in late 2009 which has taken away any legal opportunities for residents to question the need for the line.
Jan. 30, 2011
Province Cuts Red Tape for Power Industry
In this letter to the Edmonton Journal, RETA points out that the Alberta Government does a great job of cutting red tape for the electricity transmission industry, but does a terrible job of protecting the environment, protecting public health and safety, and public consultation.
Jan. 28, 2011
Heartland Line Would Close School
Parents are convinced an overhead 500kV Heartland power line would close Colchester Elementary School. The line would be built so close to the school, parents would move their children out of the school for fear of health and safety hazards. Studies on electromagnetic field and corona effects from overhead high voltage power lines show very strong links to childhood leukemia, other cancers and depression. At the same time, RETA challenges the Alberta Government’s assertion that the “lights are going to go out” if hundreds of kilometres of new overhead power lines are not built. See front-page Sherwood Park News article for details.
Jan. 28, 2011
AUC Tells Capital Power to Keep Promise
In October 2010 Capital Power asked the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to let it back out of a commitment EPCOR (it’s parent company) made in 2001 to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its Genesee 3 power plant down to the equivalent of a natural gas-fired plant. This Edmonton Journal article reports that the AUC recently ruled Capital Power must fulfil its earlier commitment to reduce GHG emissions. RETA applauds this decision by the AUC, especially at a time when other jurisdictions are shutting down dirty coal-fired electricity generation plants. Canada’s Environment Minister has told companies to phase out coal-fired generation in Canada, but the Alberta Government continues to allow new coal-fired power plants to be built.
Jan. 21. 2011
RETA Asks Premier for Environmental Study
This Farm ‘n’ Friends article reports that the Alberta Environment Minister turned down a request by RETA for a formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed Heartland power line, so RETA has appealed to Premier Stelmach for the EIA. See original letter to the Premier.
Jan. 18-27 & Feb. 1-4, 2011
Wildrose Would Repeal Land Use Laws
The Wildrose Alliance Leader, Caucus members and Party members have met with hundreds of Albertans across the province making it clear that the Wildrose Alliance would repeal Bills 19, 36 and 50 if they form the Government following the next provincial election. See the High River Times, Bonnyville Nouvelle, Bow Island Commentator, Vauxhall Advance, St. Albert Gazette, Saint City News, Western Producer, Red Deer Advocate, Cochrane Eagle, and The Tyee. These Bills, especially Bills 19 and 50, have significantly streamlined requirements for electricity transmission companies who are applying to build new monster high voltage power lines. Albertans across the province are liking what the Wildrose Alliance Party is telling them, that if they form the next Government, they will restore private landowner rights and the opportunity to have a say on whether specific high voltage power lines are even needed. The Party also repeats the message that the P.C. Government has fallen out of touch with landowners.
Jan. 14, 2011
Heartland Line a Health Threat
A former professor of molecular biology and Chair of Concordia’s Department of Environmental Health points out in this article there are some very good scientific studies that suggest power lines like the Heartland Line pose a health threat to children. He has major concerns about the Heartland Transmission Project, and was recently elected President of the St. Albert Alberta Party constituency association to fight this project and to work on a number of other issues.
Jan. 14, 2011
More on Heartland Environmental Study
RETA continues to indicate in this Saint City News article that a formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Heartland Transmission Project is the only way to properly assess the environmental, health, safety and property value impacts. Alberta Environment says they already know what the impacts of the Heartland Line are, even without an EIA.
Jan. 14, 2011
Power Lines and Property Rights – Danger
This Calgary Herald column points out the political trouble the Alberta Tories have created by mixing people’s fears and concerns about overhead high voltage power lines and private property rights.
Jan. 11, 2011
AUC Announces Community Hearings
The Alberta Utilities Commission announced that the Heartland Transmission Project facility application is considered complete. The AUC has also set dates and times for community hearing sessions as part of the enhanced Heartland public hearing process. Anyone choosing this option must register for one of the sessions by February 28, 2011. See news article here, and AUC notices and details here and here.
Jan. 11, 2011
Strathcona County Fighting Power Line
Strathcona County has added $150,000 to its budget to intervene at the upcoming AUC hearings on the Heartland power line. The County continues to press for the line to be buried where it’s populated. A petition to bury the line can be signed until March 4, 2011 at Millennium Place, County Hall, Strathcona County Library, Ardrossan Recreation Complex, Glen Allan Recreation Complex and the Heartland Hall Contact Office. See Sherwood Park News article and Strathcona County news release.
Jan. 10, 2011
Pipeline or Power Line – Not Both
This letter to the Edmonton Journal editor points out that the plans for a new oilsands pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. negates the need for the proposed Heartland power line. If our oilsands are going to be shipped to the U.S. by pipeline, what is the need for upgraders and refineries in Alberta and therefore what is the need for a 500kV power line from Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland where 9 upgraders had been planned before companies started shipping unprocessed bitumen south?
Jan. 5-7, 2011
Environmental Review of Heartland Line
If the Alberta Government insists that the Heartland Line gets built, RETA has requested that a formal environmental impact assessment of the proposed line be conducted because the Heartland Line would be the largest overhead power line ever built in Alberta, and because the environmental and health impacts of the line are significant. Unfortunately, an Alberta Environment public relations spokesperson has said an environmental assessment is not necessary because they already know the outcome, leading RETA to question the need for the department if it is not interested in protecting Alberta’s environment and Albertans’ health. See Edmonton Journal article, St. Albert Gazette article, CTV coverage, CHED News coverage, Winnipeg Free Press article, and Red Deer Advocate article.
Jan. 5, 2011
Overhead Power Lines Trouble for Germany
Massive overhead high voltage lines and towers planned in Germany are posing serious political risks to Germany’s conservatives as they head into local elections. Underground lines are more acceptable to citizens. See Spiegel article.
Jan. 4, 2011
Heartland Power Line Not Needed
This letter to the Sherwood Park News asks why MLA Dave Quest and the Alberta Government in general continue to insist that industrial, business and residential electricity needs demand construction of hundreds of kilometres of new overhead high voltage power lines throughout Alberta. Industry itself has said they do not need the Heartland Line or other lines deemed “critical transmission infrastructure” by the Alberta Government, especially since most of the largest electricity users co-generate their own electricity.
Jan. 3, 2011
AltaLink Should Bury St. Albert Line
The City of St. Albert has honoured Elke Blodgett for her tireless environmental advocacy in the Big Lake area. It is unfortunate that AltaLink is not willing to fund the entire costs of burying a very short section of their high voltage power line that kills hundreds of birds annually, especially because this line runs right along the edge of Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park and Big Lake, one of the most important migratory bird areas in the Capital Region. See Edmonton Journal article and St. Albert News Release .
Dec. 28, 2010
Heartland Line For Export?
In this letter to the Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News, a resident of Sherwood Park asks for proof from the Alberta Government that the Heartland Line will not be used to export electricity from Alberta to the U.S.
Dec. 23, 2010
Alberta Electricity Plan Unaffordable
See this CHED News clip of an interview with RETA President Bruce Johnson who spoke about the letter leaked to RETA by a member of Premier Stelmach’s Inner Circle. The October 26, 2010 letter sent to members of Alberta’s P.C. Caucus by Alberta Direct Connect and Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta indicates that Alberta’s electricity transmission plan is not affordable and if implemented will drive industry and businesses out of the province. The matter was also discussed at length by RETA and Dave Rutherford on the December 23 Rutherford Show.
Dec. 21, 2010
Total Upgrader in the Heartland Scrapped
This Edmonton Journal article and Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News article report on Total recently scrapping its plans to build a bitumen upgrader in the Industrial Heartland, thereby even further diminishing the need for the proposed Heartland Transmission Line from Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland.
Dec. 21, 2010
Premier Says Power Lines Needed
Even though Alberta Direct Connect, Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, Enmax, the ex-Utilities Consumer Advocate, academic reports and many others have provided data to show that many of the Alberta Government’s new planned power lines are not needed, Premier Stelmach recently told the Sherwood Park Chamber of Commerce that they are needed or the lights will go out. He also denied that any of the lines to be paid for by Alberta ratepayers will export electricity to the U.S., even though there are numerous sites on the internet that outline detailed plans and routes for Alberta electricity to be transmitted from the Industrial Heartland to the United States. See Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News coverage.
Dec. 16, 2010
Positive Court Decision on MATL Power Line
A Montana judge has ruled that the Montana Alberta Tie Line (MATL), a private transmission developer, has no legal authority to take private property to construct a high voltage power line from Lethbridge to Great Falls, Montana. The Lavesta Area Group has increased its financial support to Alberta landowners fighting this line. See this news release by the Lavesta Area Group.
Dec. 15, 2010
AESO at Odds with Industry
This letter to the St. Albert Gazette indicates that the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is at odds with industry. The AESO says we need billions of dollars in new transmission infrastructure so industry in Alberta can stay competitive. Industry says the new transmission lines will significantly increase industrial electricity costs and make Alberta industries unable to compete with those elsewhere in North America. The letter suggests that industry knows best.
Dec. 13, 2010
MLA Rob Anderson Critical of Power Line Contracts
Rob Anderson blasts the government process for awarding billion dollar power line projects to select companies with no competitive bidding process. Furthermore, he notes that the government with the passing of Bill 50 took away any responsibility for the AESO or the transmission companies to prove these massive projects are even needed. For the full article in the Calgary Beacon click here.
Dec. 10, 2010
Industry Says No to New Power Lines
The Alberta Direct Connect Consumer Association (ADC), representing many industries, says in this letter to the editor that the Alberta Government’s electricity transmission plan is not affordable and will drive industry out of Alberta. The ADC challenges the Alberta Government, the AESO and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce head, Ken Kobly, to look at the facts before fearmongering about the “lights going out” if we don’t immediately build billions of dollars of new overhead high voltage power lines all over the province. Another letter also discussesthe inflated costs to build new electricity infrastructure and asks who is going to pay for it.
Dec. 9, 2010
AltaLink Announces West 500kV Power Line
The preferred and alternate routes for the 365-kilometre long 500kV direct current power line from Genesee to Langdon were announced by Leigh Clarke, Senior VP of AltaLink, who is also VP of Calgary Region, Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. Landowners such as the Lavesta Area Group, the Town of Crossfield, Enmax and many others say the line is not needed or that the project as proposed far outstrips the need. This article points out the controversy surrounding the line. Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert fearmongered by suggesting that it is urgent to start construction on these new lines to avoid outages.
Dec. 2 & 3, 2010
Exporting Alberta Power
Strathcona County residents listened to presentations on how much of the critical transmission infrastructure identified by the Alberta Government is for exporting electricity to the U.S. The most unfair part of this export is that Alberta rate payers will be footing the bill for construction of this infrastructure while the transmission companies reap the profits. The need for all of these new lines, in terms of benefiting Alberta residents and industry, was seriously questioned. In this article, RETA indicated that questioning the need for these lines, promoting burying of the lines if they are built, and compensating residents and businesses on the basis of replacement value if the lines aren’t buried, all need to be argued.
Dec. 1, 2010
Property Devaluation Compensation
This article describes how homes and properties in France could lose one-half to two-thirds of their value if a new overhead high voltage power line is built near their homes. The national electricity distribution firm RTE has offered to buy these homes. (On the other hand, AltaLink and EPCOR say they will not compensate homeowners for such losses associated with an overhead Heartland Line because the Alberta Government has no legislation forcing them to do so.)
Nov. 17, 2010
Power Line to be Buried in Nova Scotia
This CBC News report indicates that Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia will be burying a high voltage power line as part of increasing generation and transmission efficiency. Why are AltaLink, EPCOR, ATCO Electric, the AESO and Alberta Energy so reluctant to bury power lines here in Alberta?
Nov. 16 & 24, 2010
No Good Reason to Carry on with Project
A St. Albert resident expresses his frustration with the Heartland Transmission Project in this letter to the Edmonton Journal. More opposition to the Heartland project expressed in this letter to the editor from a Villeneuve resident. Heartland Project is Bad for business says this letter to the editor in the Morinville News.
Nov. 16, 2010
Solar Storm Risks to Overhead Power Lines
This New York Times article suggests a major geomagnetic storm could be the largest natural disaster the U.S. could face because such a storm could cause region-wide or national power blackouts potentially for months and affect high voltage grids on other continents as well. Such a storm in 1989 , on a much smaller scale, resulted in 6 million Quebecers to be without electricity for 9 hours (see RETA Fact Sheet #15). If high voltage power lines were buried, these geomagnetic storms would not be able to cripple electric power grids.
Nov. 12, 2010
Several Arguments Needed Against Line
RETA made it clear in this article that several arguments are required to fight the proposed Heartland power line. Even though the line isn’t needed, based on the facts including EPCOR’s and AltaLink’s own data, the Alberta Government has said it is needed and passed legislation (Bill 50) last November saying so. As a result, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has said it will not hear arguments on the need for the line during upcoming hearings in April 2011. Therefore, if the line is going to get built, other arguments are required to make sure the line is not overbuilt and that the safest technologies are used to build the line. Burying the line would eliminate or mitigate almost all of the negative health, safety, property value, aesthetic and environmental impacts of an overhead line, and would not cost any more than an overhead line.
Nov. 9 & 10, 2010
Heartland AUC Hearing Date Set
Articles in the Edmonton Journal and St. Albert Gazette indicate that the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has set April 11, 2011 as the start date for the public hearing on the Heartland power line. The AUC will accept arguments on: underground construction/operation, route selection, human and animal health and safety, property value, environmental impacts (wildlife, habitat), social and economic impacts, visual impacts and land use classification. At a hearing process meeting, RETA argued the above ground line would have negative property value and health impacts, and that burying the line would mitigate these.
Nov. 6, 2010
Heartland Power Line Costs Skyrocketing
As reported in this article, the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta is asking why the estimated Heartland power line project costs have skyrocketed in the past year. Industry, businesses and the general public have become very skeptical of the guesswork involved by EPCOR and AltaLink in generating these cost estimates.
Nov. 5, 2010
Leaked Document a Power Line Bombshell!!
On Nov 4th a leaked 26-page document endorsed by a coalition of consumer groups including the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta (IPCAA) hit newsrooms throughout the Province. The document was extremely critical of the large-scale transmission upgrades planned for Alberta and expressed that the upgrades are clearly unneeded and will only in the end raise electricity rates and therefore hurt consumers. The report concludes that the cost of paying for such large-scale upgrades would inevitably raise rates and cost Alberta’s industries crucial competitiveness. For reactions to the report please read this article in the Red Deer Advocate. To read the full report please click here (may take a few minutes to connect).
Nov. 3 & 4, 2010
Strathcona County Wants Power Line Buried
At the upcoming Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearings on the proposed Heartland power line, Strathcona County Council has made it clear to the AUC that it will be pushing for the line to be buried to address environmental and health concerns of Strathcona County residents. Residents can support burying the Heartland line by signing a petition at either Millennium Place or County Hall in Sherwood Park. Details are provided here, here and here.
Nov. 3, 2010
Heartland Power Line Bad for Business
Numerous interveners in the Heartland power line hearings planned for April 2011 told the Alberta Utilities Commission the line would interfere with their businesses and make Alberta less competitive. This could well result in some businesses leaving Alberta due to the higher costs of electricity here. See St. Albert Gazette coverage.
Oct. 29, 2010
Capital Power Asks for Lifting of Restrictions
Capital Power, which will be generating the electricity at its Keephills coal-fired power plant to be transmitted through the proposed Heartland power line, is asking the Alberta Utilities Commission if it can break its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at its Genesee coal-fired power plant. The rest of Canada is decommissioning coal-fired power plants in response to the federal Environment Minister’s recent statement that coal-fired generation must be replaced with more environmentally-friendly generation. On the other hand, here in Alberta, dirty coal-fired generation is steadily increasing. See details in this Edmonton Journal article.
Oct. 27, 2010
AUC Officials Met with Raucous Welcome!
Over 130 citizens packed the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) information session held on Monday Oct 25th to learn about the upcoming AUC hearing process but also to clearly express their frustration with the entire process itself. Residents voiced their concern that under the 2009 Electric Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 50) the government shifted the responsibility of determining the need of “Critical Transmission Infrastructure” from the AUC hearing floor to the political backrooms. AUC spokesperson Jim Law stated, “In the end, it was a political decision to proceed with legislation that identified four projects as critical infrastructure and exempted the [AUC] from any ability to consider need as part of the process”. It was clear that the residents felt that Bill 50 was undermining the democratic process by eliminating any process or mechanism requiring the government to prove the need of the Heartland line. Law stated that the AUC will look at whether or not the application for routing is in the public interest but one must wonder how you can clearly and fully evaluate the public interest without the ability to analyze the need of the line? For full coverage read this article in the Edmonton Journal.
Oct. 26, 2010
Sturgeon County Takes NIMBY Approach
The County of Sturgeon has decided to take the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach to its intervention in the Heartland power line Alberta Utilities Commission hearings by pressing for approval of AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s preferred route through Ellerslie and the Sherwood Park Greenbelt. The irony with this approach is that it might address concerns by some Sturgeon County residents who live along the western alternate route, but residents of east Sturgeon County who live along the preferred route are wondering why their Council is trying to stick the line in their back yard. The “Sturgeon Blueline Group” says it’s not about which route gets selected; rather, it’s about whether the line is even needed. See story here.
Oct. 25-29 & Nov. 3, 2010
Residents Along Proposed Power Line Angry
Residents along the proposed 500kV Heartland Transmission Line are angry about the way the Alberta Government has taken away the opportunity for the public and industry to provide input on the need for specific new high voltage power lines, and the way transmission companies were awarded contracts, without competitive bidding, to build the new Heartland line and 500kV lines between Edmonton and Calgary and between Gibbons and Brooks. See coverage here, here, here, here and here.
Oct. 25-27, 2010
Successful Lobbying to Bury Lines
Scottish residents are successfully lobbying their elected representatives to bury high voltage power lines to eliminate the negative visual impacts of above ground lines. Aerial high voltage power lines and towers (pylons) are ugly and ruin the landscape. Details reported here and here.
Oct. 24, 2010
Alternatives to Heartland Power Line
This letter points out there are so many better alternatives to the proposed 500kV Heartland power line that would not involve transmitting dirty electricity generated from coal-fired generators at Wabamun. Coal-fired generators have only about a 16% efficiency rate of producing electricity, and this antiquated technology is being phased out across North America. Other technologies such as solar and wind power, combined heat and power (cogeneration) and Energy Server avoid or significantly reduce the need for aerial high voltage power lines which have so many negative health implications.
Oct. 23-24, 2010
Environmental Concerns about Line to U.S.
Residents in Montana are concerned about the environmental impacts on all of the wetlands of the merchant high voltage power line under construction from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls, Montana. Stories here and here.
Oct. 20, 2010
RETA Preparing for Heartland AUC Hearings
RETA (Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans) is preparing for the upcoming Alberta Utilities Commission hearings on the Heartland Transmission Line scheduled for April 2011. They will be including experts on everything from health to property values. See coverage here.
Oct. 19, 2010
County Election Results Tied to Power Line
Newly-elected Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk said she believes she hooked into a groundswell of public discontent stemming from controversy over plans to run overhead transmission lines (the Heartland line) through Sherwood Park. Osinchuk had spear-headed a petition to get the Heartland line buried. See stories here, here and here.
Oct. 15, 2010
More Criticism of Alberta Power Line Law
The Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA) strongly criticizes the Stelmach Government in this article for passing Bills 36 and 50, particularly Bill 50, which denies the public and the AUC any say in whether or not high voltage power lines are needed. Regarding land use and electricity transmission matters, CAEPLA compares the Stelmach Government to the centralist federal government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Oct. 13, 2010
Power Lines Will be Buried in Colorado
This article reports how residents have successfully lobbied to get high voltage power lines buried in Colorado in response to concerns about negative health, property value and aesthetic impacts.
Oct. 6, 2010
AESO Argues for Lower Voltage Line
Even the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is now arguing that a lower voltage Heartland power line would be sufficient because of the cancellation of bitumen upgraders planned in the Heartland Industrial area. See coverage here.
Oct. 3, 2010
Needs Assessment Skipped – Wildrose
Recently, Danielle Smith the Leader of the Wildrose Alliance visited Sturgeon County as part of a three-county tour. Smith was concerned about the local impacts of the proposed Heartland Transmission line and was very clear that the need for the project has never been demonstrated by the government. For a full account read this article in the Morinville News.
Sept. 29, 2010
EPCOR & AltaLink Say No to Burying Line
EPCOR and AltaLink submitted their facility application to the Alberta Utilities Commission September 28, indicating that the health, safety, environmental, aesthetic and property value concerns raised by residents for 3 years will not be addressed because the transmission companies argue the cost of burying the line just isn’t worth it. (The fact is, the capital cost of burying the Heartland line would cost the average Alberta consumer no more than a cup of coffee a year. If you add in the reduced maintenance, transmission loss, property devaluation and health costs of buried lines, they are far cheaper than aerial lines over the life of a line.) In addition, the vast majority of Albertans continue to argue that the line isn’t even needed, based on the Alberta Government’s and AESO’s own data. See news stories here and here.
Sept. 27, 2010
Citizens Concerned about Heartland Line
On Tuesday, September 21 over a hundred citizens attended a public information meeting in Villeneuve to discuss the proposed alternative route for the Heartland Transmission Line. The information presented clearly demonstrated the anti-democratic features of Bills 50, 36, & 19 with regards to landowner rights and furthermore, effectively rebuked the argument that the Heartland project is critically needed. Read this Morinville News article written by Division 4 council candidate Al Homeniuk for a first-hand account of the evening. The St. Albert Gazette also provided this article on the event.
Sept. 2, 2010
Rimbey Residents Meet with AltaLink
The AltaLink propaganda machine continues to try to convince land owners that the $14.5B in infrastructure projects being handed out are actually needed. Read the full article in the Red Deer Advocate.
Aug. 27, 2010
Petition to Bury Line – No to Towers
A petition is circulating to get the Heartland power line buried. At recent information sessions, EPCOR and AltaLink tried to fool people into focusing on type of tower to be used for the Heartland line, rather than recommending to the AUC what residents have been telling them for months…..either the line is not needed, or if it is built, bury it. See this article.
Aug. 26, 2010
Premier Skips Power Line Meeting
Even though Premier Stelmach was in Vegreville, he decided not to attend a meeting of over 500 Vegreville and area residents who are upset about a 500kV HVDC power line approved last year by the Alberta Government under Bill 50. Leaders of the major provincial political parties were invited to attend to answer questions about why the line was approved and why ATCO Electric was awarded the project without any competitive bidding. Leaders of the Liberal, Wildrose Alliance and NDP parties did show up to answer questions. Attendees were particularly upset that Premier Stelmach did not attend because he is the MLA for the Vegreville area. For details click here, here and here . For a related article in the Vegreville News Advertiser please click here. Complete transcripts of the evening are now available at the following link.
Aug. 19, 2010
Heartland Information Sessions Futile
This news coverage indicates information sessions hosted by EPCOR and AltaLink on the proposed Heartland power line have attracted very low turnouts. The primary reason for such low turnouts is that residents say they are not being listened to by EPCOR, AltaLink and their MLAs. This most recent series of information sessions by the power companies focused on tower design. Almost all people who have attended the sessions say they don’t want any kind of towers….they want the 500kV power line buried.
Aug. 16, 2010
Vegreville Residents Organize to Fight Line
The Vegreville Area Landowners Transmission Line Opposition Association (VALTOA) has recently been formed to fight the 500kV ATCO Electric HVDC power line proposed to run from Gibbons to Brooks. VALTOA is hosting a meeting August 25, 2010 in Vegreville to which they have invited the Leaders of all provincial political parties. For details see the following link: VALTOA News Release
August 3, 2010
Weather Can’t Damage Buried Power Lines
This reader writes that ice storms, tornadoes and high winds damage above ground high voltage power lines. Buried lines are not vulnerable to weather hazards, and thereby save millions of dollars in maintenance and repair costs.
July 30, 2010
Heartland Team Wants Taller Towers
In a strange twist of logic, the Heartland Project Team (HPT) recently sent information around to stakeholders indicating they would be recommending to the AUC power line towers that are up to 13m taller than those previously planned. Although the new towers would not be as wide, they would be taller, thereby creating more of a health hazard with respect to the corona effect. Taller towers will mean that carcinogenic aerial pollutants positively charged by corona ions given off by the power lines will be able to drift further downwind than would shorter towers. (See RETA Fact Sheet #24.) Also, the HPT has confirmed they will be recommending that the full length of the line be built above ground. At most, they will let the AUC know that the public, which has been consulted, has requested that the line be buried. Councillor Bidzinski says that MLAs Dave Quest and Hon. Iris Evans need to press their elected colleagues to get the line buried. RETA President, Bruce Johnson, says that burying the line will address the 3 top concerns expressed by residents, namely, health, property values and visual pollution. Read Sherwood Park News coverage here.
July 27, 2010
Bidzinski Ready to Fight Power Line
This article reports that Ward 1 Councillor Vic Bidzinski is ready to continue battling against the proposed Heartland power line for another term. He will be seeking re-election this Fall. Bidzinski thinks the line isn’t needed. Strathcona County Council’s position has consistently been that if the line is built in the County, it must be buried.
July 16, 2010
Power Line Threatens Rugby
Strathcona County Councillor Linda Osinchuk rightfully points out that if the 500kV Heartland power line gets built above ground in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt, it would run right over the local rugby fields and clubhouse. This would most certainly not be a healthy situation for all of the athletes and spectators who use these facilities. Councillor Osinchuk encourages residents to contact the Premier and their MLAs and tell them they want the power line buried. See story here.
July 13, 2010
Espionage in the Power Line Industry
Rather than focusing on espionage issues recently raised by CSIS, this letter to the Edmonton Journal suggests Premier Stelmach should have paid more attention to espionage taking place in 2007 when Albertans opposed to a high voltage power line between Edmonton and Calgary were spied on by a private investigator.
July 6, 2010
Council Blasts EPCOR’s Presentation
The Strathcona County Mayor and Councillors blasted EPCOR on June 22 following EPCOR’s update to Council on the Heartland power line project. EPCOR clearly stated that they would not recommend to the AUC burying any portion of the proposed 500kV line. The Mayor and Councillors made it clear the only way they could accept the line running through the County is if it is buried. See Sherwood Park News coverage here.
June 28, 2010
Heartland Power Line Update – EFCL
The most recent issue of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues newsletter included an update of the Heartland Transmission Project, and the progress made by RETA to get this line buried: http://www.efcl.org/NEWS/CommunityClassifieds/tabid/76/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/517/Default.aspx
June 22, 2010
Premier & MLAs Need to Support Residents
Strathcona County Council has been supportive of residents’ health, safety and security concerns about the proposed Heartland power line. This letter to the Sherwood Park News suggests that it’s time for the Premier, Hon. Iris Evans and MLA Dave Quest to also support these concerns.
June 18, 2010
Premier’s Constituents Angry About Line
CBC and CTV reported that hundreds of residents and landowners attended an ATCO Electric open house in Lamont to voice their concerns about a proposed 500kV power line running over their homes and properties, and are demanding that the line be buried. Residents want to know what their MLA, Premier Stelmach, has to say especially considering that one of the proposed power line routes runs very close to the Premier’s homestead. See this June 17, 2010 RETA News Release for details.
June 18, 2010
Partisan Politics in Power Line Contracts
Rob Anderson, Wildrose Alliance MLA, suggests in this article that partisan politics has been at play in the awarding of billions in untendered electricity transmission contracts to the largest donors to the Alberta P.C. Party via Bill 50. He points out that one of AltaLink’s VPs (Leigh Clarke) is also a VP of the Alberta P.C. Party.
June 8, 2010
Power Line Questions for Alberta Cabinet
About half of the public attending a provincial Cabinet Tour question-and-answer session on May 31 had concerns about the proposed overhead Heartland power line running through their communities in the Sherwood Park and Strathcona provincial constituencies. Questions were asked about developing a provincial policy regarding burying high voltage power lines near residential areas, and the hazards associated with above ground power lines and buried pipelines in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt. Unfortunately, Alberta’s Energy Minister who is responsible for electricity transmission was too busy to attend. Local MLAs Dave Quest and Honourable Iris Evans continue to erroneously suggest that the Alberta government has no role to play in siting the Heartland line or in the technology to be used. See this article.
May 26, 2010
Burying Lines Would Avoid Damage
AltaLink indicated recently in newspaper ads that severe weather this spring damaged above ground high voltage power lines throughout central and southern Alberta, disrupting power to thousands of Albertans. This letter to the Edmonton Journal indicates that these lines would not have been damaged if they had been buried, and would have saved millions of dollars in repair.
May 25, 2010
Student Asks Premier to Bury Power Line
In this letter, a Sherwood Park junior high school student asks Premier Stelmach to bury the Heartland power line due to the health risks of above ground high voltage power lines.
May 15, 2010
More on Heartland Delay
It appears that more technical considerations and studies are required before the Heartland facility application will be submitted to the Alberta Utilities Commission. The underground feasibility study commissioned by the AESO and the possibility of a DC rather than an AC line are apparently among the considerations. In this article RETA indicates that if this line gets built at all, it will be “The Line From Nowhere To Nowhere” because of the inability to fill the 500kV double circuit line to capacity at the upstream end (Wabamun) and due to scrapped upgrader development at the downstream end (Industrial Heartland).
May 15, 2010
$35M to AESO and AltaLink Approved
Further on this story, the AUC has actually tentatively approved a $35M payment to the AESO to compensate AltaLink for their “expenses” on the Edmonton-Calgary power line that was scrapped due to a spying scandal. The Opposition and the Lavesta Area Group challenge this decision.
May 11, 2010
Iris Evans Asked to Help with Power Line
Constituents ask MLA Iris Evans to represent them in their fight to keep the proposed 500 kilovolt overhead Heartland transmission line out of the Sherwood Park constituency. To date, Evans has been relatively silent on the topic. See this letter in the Sherwood Park News.
May 8 & 13, 2010
Albertans to Pay for Power Line Spy Scandal
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) was directed last fall by the Alberta Utilities Commission to pay AltaLink $35 million for the preparatory work on a controversial 500kV Edmonton-Calgary power line. The line was scrapped in 2007 after it was discovered that the Alberta Energy & Utilities Board hired private investigators to spy on landowners opposed to the project. AESO now hopes to recoup the $35M this year through tariffs on consumer bills. The Lavesta Area Group has asked for a full independent judicial inquiry. See this article and these letters of concern in the Edmonton Journal.
May 7, 2010
TransAlta & Capital Power Lone Hold-Outs?
ATCO Power’s announcement in this article indicates they understand the heavy carbon footprint left by burning coal to produce power has got to stop. TransAlta and Capital Power (part of EPCOR), that operate the Wabamun power generation facilities, appear to be among the last hold-outs in recognizing that coal-fired power generation needs to stop. (The proposed Heartland power line would transmit power from the dirty coal-fired generation at Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland.)
May 4, 2010
Heartland Facility Application Delayed
EPCOR and AltaLink have decided to postpone submission of their Heartland Transmission Project facility application to the AUC until fall 2010. They were to have submitted it this spring. The delay will give RETA time to raise funds for its legal battle against the overhead line, and hopefully give the Alberta Government time to re-evaluate whether the line is even needed. See this Edmonton Journal article.
April 30, 2010
Power Line Video No Laughing Matter
RETA releases YouTube video on the impacts of the proposed Heartland power line. See this Sherwood Park News column.
April 28, 2010
Alberta Second Class – TransAlta
TransAlta is willing to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions in Washington by replacing its coal-fired power generation. However, here in Alberta, TransAlta wants to continue its coal-fired generation at Lake Wabamun and its excessive greenhouse gas output. This is the dirty power that would be transmitted from Wabamun through the proposed Heartland power line. See this article.
April 25 & June 23, 2010
Coal-Fired Power Producers to Shut Down
The federal Environment Minister has told Canada’s electricity producers to retire their coal-fired plants and replace them with cleaner sources of power, as part of the government’s attempt to curtail Canada’s greenhouse gases. This is further indication that the Heartland Transmission Line should not be built, pursuant to Bill 50, to transmit electricity generated from dirty coal burning at Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland. See Globe and Mail and Calgary Herald articles.
April 23, 2010
No Response Yet from Premier
Premier Stelmach has still not responded to an April 1, 2010 letter from RETA asking that the need for the Heartland line be re-evaluated in light of reduced upgrader development in the Industrial Heartland. RETA indicated that co-generation right at the Industrial Heartland would be cleaner, cheaper, more efficient and requires little or no transmission lines, compared to using electricity produced by burning dirty coal at Wabamun and transmitted by the proposed 500kV double circuit Heartland power line. See Sherwood Park News coverage.
April 22 & May 6, 2010
No Need For Heartland Power Line
Another pipeline has been approved to carry raw bitumen from Fort McMurray to the U.S. And, Enbridge has plans to move raw bitumen by pipeline to the west coast to be shipped to China. All of this bitumen was to have been refined in the Industrial Heartland. These are additional examples of the proposed Heartland power line not being needed anymore. See this letter to the Fort Saskatchewan Record and this article in the Edmonton Journal.
April 9, 2010
Health Canada Should Warn Canadians
The siting of overhead high voltage power lines near homes, schools and daycares is not only a provincial issue. This letter to the Sherwood Park News points out that the federal government through Health Canada should be warning Canadians about the risks of high voltage line electromagnetic fields and pollutant-laden corona ions on health; however, they have not done so and are being criticized for being out-of-touch.
April 5-9, 2010
RETA Writes Premier – Line Not Needed
RETA sent a letter to Premier Stelmach requesting a review of the need for the proposed 500kV dual circuit Heartland Transmission Line in light of the significantly reduced development of the Industrial Heartland. The requested review is compared to the oil and gas royalty review just conducted by the Alberta Government due to changing economic realities. See Sherwood Park News article, Edmonton Journal article and Saint City News article.
April 2, 2010
Quest Not Positive About Burying Prospects
In this column, Strathcona MLA David Quest is not very positive about the prospects that any portion of the Heartland transmission line will actually get buried, and erroneously suggests that the AUC will make the final decision on the Heartland line siting. (The fact is, if the line gets built in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt, it will be the Alberta Government, specifically the Minister of Infrastructure, that makes the final decision, based on 1974 legislation.)
March 31, 2010
Sturgeon’s Choice – Sherwood Pk. Greenbelt
Based on this article, Sturgeon County appears to be pushing to get the Heartland power line built in AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s “preferred” route, which runs through Sturgeon County, Strathcona County and Edmonton. Sturgeon County residents who live along AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s “preferred” route are wondering why their Council is not supporting them.
March 29, 2010
Political Fallout of Transmission Laws
Two electricity transmission laws passed in 2009 (Bill 19 and Bill 50) are cited as reasons for the Highwood PC Constituency Association writing this scathing letter to Premier Stelmach about the Alberta PC Party “nearing the precipice of moral insolvency to govern”.
March 28, 2010
Homes Near Power Line Don’t Sell
104 homes near a recently built overhead high voltage power line and purchased by B.C. Hydro in a $62 million compensation deal, continue not to sell due to health, safety and property value concerns. Follow this story from March 18, 2008 to April 1, 2010 at the following links. It would have been far cheaper for B.C. Hydro to have buried the lines, as initially demanded by homeowners. (See RETA Fact Sheet #28 for additional lawsuit and other compensation settlements): http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/5932-tsawwassen-power-line-boondoggle.html http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100328/bc_tsawwassen_homes_100328/20100328?hub=BritishColumbiaHome http://www.theprovince.com/news/Print+extra+Tsawwassen+taxpayer+funded+ghost+town/2735252/story.html http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/09/13/bc-tsawwassen-power-lines-homes-sale.html http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/03/18/bc-tsawwassen-line-approved.html
March 26, 2010
Edmonton – Calgary DC Line Underground?
AltaLink has informed Parkland County Council that they have not ruled out burying the proposed DC power line from Parkland County to Calgary. AltaLink also indicated that some landowners want smaller towers because of the impact of overhead power lines and towers on their property values: http://www.stonyplainreporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2510012
March 19, 2010
County Councillor Questions Need for Line
Strathcona County Councillor Vic Bidzinski continues to question the need for the Heartland line in this column, considering the reduced development of the Industrial Heartland. If the line is to be built, it must be buried adjacent to any population density.
March 19, 2010
AUC Explains Heartland Hearing Process
The AUC provided details to concerned Sherwood Park residents about the enhanced hearing process for the proposed Heartland line. Meeting participants were unhappy about the provincial government circumventing the needs assessment part of the process by rushing through Bill 50 legislation in late 2009: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2498039
March 17 & 18, 2010
Proposal to Bury 570-km Power Line
A Toronto company is proposing to bury underwater and underground 570km of high voltage power lines from Quebec to New York City. The President of Transmission Developers said, “if you can’t get overhead power lines built because the communities you want to serve don’t want them, then in our opinion they are infinitely expensive”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/business/energy-environment/17power.html?scp=1&sq=toronto%20firm%20behind%20big%20underwater%20power%20transmission%20project&st=cse http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/underwater-line-would-take-power-to-new-york/article1504170/
March 16, 2010
Students Express Concerns to the AUC
Colchester Elementary School students have written letters to the AUC expressing concerns about the proposed overhead Heartland line running right next to their school. Colchester students and parents successfully opposed a 240kV line next to their school in 1988. Young children are particularly susceptible to the negative health effects of EMFs and corona ions emitted by overhead high voltage lines because their immune systems are not yet fully developed: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2492405
March 12, 2010
County Asks Premier to Bury Line
Strathcona County Mayor Cathy Olesen has sent a letter to Premier Stelmach, asking that the Heartland line be put underground. The County has consistently indicated that they will only accept high voltage power lines through Strathcona County if they are buried: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2487861
Feb. 24 to March 5, 2010
Burying Heartland Line is Feasible
Although a study conducted by a consultant for the AESO indicates that burying part of the Heartland line is technically and financially feasible and that the buried line would be reliable, the AESO, EPCOR and AltaLink refuse to recommend the partial underground option to the public and the AUC. As well, Alberta Energy continues to refuse to support burial or partial burial of the line: Burying Line is Feasible and Affordable http://edmonton.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100224/edm_aeso_100224/20100224/?hub=EdmontonHome http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2471846 http://www.stonyplainreporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2479209
Feb. 9, 2010
No Need for Power Lines
A local company, Lancaster Wind Systems, is working on turning wind energy into hydraulic power, which could help make high voltage power lines obsolete. The company’s CEO says electricity transmission lines will one day be a memory: http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/business/story.html?id=a53d688f-8863-413d-bf18-d0762f2ef3f4&p=1
Feb. 3, 2010
Toyota Recalls Due to Overhead Lines?
The U.S. Transportation Secretary is quoted as saying that several lawsuits filed against Toyota claim electromagnetic interference from overhead high voltage power lines could affect the computerized systems that control modern vehicle movements. Montreal Gazette Article Feb 3 2010
Jan. 29, 2010
EPCOR is still digging into why they sent the wrong information to stakeholders on their preferred and alternate routes saying that their route had been eliminated. RETA members continue to express their concern that if EPCOR can’t even get this right, perhaps the whole “public consultation process” was flawed: http://www.sprucegroveexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2283898
Jan. 27, 2010
AUC Enhanced Process
More information about the positive move by the AUC to enhance the Heartland hearing process in light of the exceptionally high level of concern expressed by Albertans about overhead high voltage power lines: http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/20100127/SAG0803/301279972
Jan. 22, 2010
Alberta Government Caught Spying?
It seems as if Assistant Deputy Minister Tim Grant (ADM for Electricity and Alternative Energy at the Department of Alberta Energy) attended a Heartland Transmission Project open house espousing his views but refusing to identify himself. Follow this link for more details: http://www.albertawest.info/2010/01/alberta-government-caught-spying-again.html
Jan. 22, 2010
Good News from the AUC
The Alberta Utilities Commission just announced an enhanced Heartland power line hearing process that gives anyone who lives or owns property within 800m of the proposed Heartland power line right-of-way the automatic opportunity to participate in the hearing process. This applies to both EPCOR’s and AltaLink’s preferred and alternate routes: Edmonton Journal Article Jan 22 2010
Jan. 21 & 22, 2010
Wrong Letters Sent to Residents
Residents in many postal code areas living along EPCOR’s and AltaLink’s preferred and alternate routes for the Heartland power line were sent erroneous notices that their routes had been eliminated: Edmonton Journal Article Jan 21 2010 Sherwood Park News Article Jan 22 2010
Jan. 8, 2010
No Surprise Greenbelt Selected
Strathcona County is not surprised EPCOR and AltaLink selected the Sherwood Park Greenbelt as their preferred route. Long before the Heartland public consultation process began, the power companies, the AESO and the Alberta Government had indicated that was their preferred route. Now, many residents wonder why public consultation was even conducted: Sherwood Park Greenbelt Selected
Jan. 7-15, 2010
Preferred and Alternate Routes Selected
EPCOR and AltaLink selected the Sherwood Park Greenbelt as their preferred route and the far west rural route as their alternate route for the Heartland line. Residents and municipal politicians continue to push for the line to be buried and question whether the line is even needed: http://edmonton.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100106/edm_powerline_100106/20100107/?hub=EdmontonHome Edmonton Journal Article Jan 7 2010 (1) Edmonton Journal Article Jan 7 2010 (2) http://www.sprucegroveexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2263507 http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/edmonton/2010/01/07/12375186-sun.html http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2251647 http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/20100113/SAG0801/301139997
Dec. 23, 2009
B.C. Hydro Compensates Home Owners
More on the story about B.C. Hydro buying 104 homes for $62 million to compensate homeowners who were concerned about living next to an overhead high voltage power line: The Province Article Dec 23 2009
Dec. 13, 2009
Collusion in the Power Industry?
Allegations have been made of collusion in Alberta’s 10-year electricity transmission plan. Deregulation and Bill 50 have also angered Albertans: Edmonton Journal Article Dec 13 2009
Nov. 30, 2009
TUC Not Meant for High Voltage Power Lines
When landowners sold their land to the Alberta Government in the 1970’s, they were told it was for a buffer zone between sprawling Edmonton and the surrounding farmland. That’s why it was called a greenbelt. 1974 legislation spoke of protecting the land for agricultural purposes and conservation of the environment…..not overhead 500kV power lines: Sherwood Park Greenbelt Not a TUC
Nov. 25-28, 2009
4,000 at Rexall Place Push to Bury Line
A huge crowd showed up at Rexall Place to voice concerns about an overhead line and listen to experts discuss health, property value and environmental impacts of overhead high voltage power lines. (See RETA Fact Sheets #11 and #19 for environmental impacts.): http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2195017 St. Albert Gazette Article Nov 28 2009 http://www.stonyplainreporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2196866 Edmonton Journal article – Nov. 25, 2009
Nov. 4 & 6, 2009
Albertans Want Lines Buried
A Leger Marketing public opinion survey indicates that Albertans, province-wide, are concerned about overhead high voltage power lines, and are willing to pay to get them buried (see “Public Opinion Surveys” link for actual survey): http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Edmonton+growing+debt+could+cause+lower+credit+rating/2413329/Survey+finds+burying+power+lines+good+idea/2179067/story.html?id=2179067 http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2163360
Oct. 18, 2009
Residents Worried about Health
Residents along the proposed Heartland line, especially those with children, are very concerned about the health effects of magnetic fields from overhead high voltage power lines. (See RETA Fact Sheets on health impacts.): Edmonton Journal Article Oct 18, 2009
Oct. 1, 2009
Health Risks of Overhead Lines Very Real
Research conducted by RETA of the scientific and medical peer-reviewed literature clearly indicates there are very real health risks of overhead high voltage power lines to humans, livestock, pets and wildlife. See information here.
Oct. 1 & July 30, 2009
Compelling Evidence of EMF Health Risks
Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO), both of which EPCOR and AltaLink like to reference, have a long history of negotiating in favour of industry. On the other hand, reputable science indicates strong links between overhead high voltage power line EMFs, cancer and many other health problems. (See RETA Fact Sheets #5a, #5b and #5c for EMF effects on cancer; and RETA Fact Sheets #21 and #27 for Health Canada and WHO biases and corruption.): http://www.vueweekly.com/article.php?id=13249 http://www.vueweekly.com/article.php?id=12548
Sept. 22, 2009
Another Big Town Hall Meeting
Over 1,300 Capital Region residents filled a west end church to hear concerns about documented health, safety, environmental and property value impacts of overhead high voltage power lines. Attendees pressed EPCOR, AltaLink and the AESO to bury the line. (See RETA Fact Sheet #9 for impacts on property value.): Power Line Creates Big Buzz
Sept. 13, 2009
B.C. Hydro Buys 105 Homes
B.C. Hydro bought 105 homes for $62 million from residents who won a battle over controversial power lines built above ground near their homes. Residents cited evidence they cause cancer, and had demanded that they be buried. It would have been cheaper to bury the lines: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/09/13/bc-tsawwassen-power-lines-homes-sale.html http://www.vancouversun.com/Hydro%2Bspends%2Bmillion%2Bhomes%2Bnear%2Bhigh%2Bvoltage%2Bpower%2Blines/1633239/story.html
Sept. 4, 2009
Parkland County Supports Burying Line
After presenters cited research showing negative effects of overhead power lines on property values, dairy cow milk production and human health, Parkland County voted to get the Heartland line buried. (See RETA Fact Sheet #20 for impacts on livestock.): http://www.sprucegroveexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1730810
Sept. 3, 2009
Mother of All Power Lines
Edmonton City Council backs residents in push to bury the Heartland 500kV power line: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Edmonton+wants+power+line+built+underground/1956203/story.html
Aug. 16, 2009
Buried Power Lines Not Too Costly
Although there are some (e.g., AltaLink, EPCOR, Alberta Energy) who suggest that buried high voltage power lines cost too much, when you do the calculations, buried lines can be cheaper than aerial lines when you factor in all of the costs associated with health, property value and reliability impacts. See information here.
June 19, 2009
Strathcona Residents Fight Power Line
1,500-2,000 people attended a meeting to listen to experts and voice their concerns about an overhead Heartland power line. Experts from Europacable, based in Belgium, told the crowd that underground lines are safer, are maintenance free, emit no electric fields above ground, emit reduced magnetic fields, and are very cost effective when compared to overhead lines: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1619641
June 5, 2009
County to Oppose Overhead Line at AUC
Strathcona County will spend $250,000 on an intervention submission to the AUC hearings, opposing an overhead Heartland line through the County: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1600225
May 26, 2009
School Tells Premier “No” to Power Line
Colchester Elementary School students wrote letters to Premier Stelmach opposing a 500kV power line by their school. On May 20, 2009, the Premier told the Sherwood Park Chamber of Commerce that burying the line could save energy. (See RETA Fact Sheet #7 for details on 1988 power line battle by Colchester School.): http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1582999
May 21, 2009
Stelmach Looks to Burying Power Lines
Premier Stelmach told the Sherwood Park Chamber of Commerce that buried transmission lines and investments in new technology could one day help Alberta deliver environmentally-efficient electricity: Premier Supports Burying Power Lines
April 14, 2009
MLA Dave Quest Gets Power Line Support
Strathcona MLA Dave Quest’s Private Member’s Motion urging the Alberta Government to investigate underground power lines received unanimous support from the Legislature: http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1521507
March 13, 2009
AESO Misleads Public & Doesn’t Follow Rules
This letter to the editor points out the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) misleads the public about its independence, and this letter to the editor indicates that the AESO does not follow AUC rules by announcing that the Heartland line should be run through the Edmonton and Sherwood Park Greenbelts, before AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s public consultation process has even begun.
March 10, 2009
Crowd of 1,000 Opposes Power Line
About 1,000 angry Strathcona County residents packed Festival Place to show their opposition to a proposed 500kV overhead power line near their homes and schools along the Sherwood Park Greenbelt. They demanded that the line be buried to eliminate the negative impacts of an overhead line. See Sherwood Park News article.
March 6, 2009
County Passes Power Line Motion
Strathcona County Council unanimously passed a motion that they don’t want any high voltage power lines in the County unless they are buried. (See RETA Fact Sheet #8 for benefits of underground lines.). See this Sherwood Park News article and column.