No formal protests expected at power-line meeting in Rimbey

The province’s electrical transmission information session team rolls into Rimbey tonight, but don’t expect banners or rallies in a community that found itself at the epicentre of the great power line debate.

The province’s electrical transmission information session team rolls into Rimbey tonight, but don’t expect banners or rallies in a community that found itself at the epicentre of the great power line debate.

Lavesta Area Group director Edwin Erickson said representatives of the 800-strong landowner group will be there but no formal protests are being organized to Bill 50, which approves the need for critical transmission infrastructure. The last of 20 information sessions, which began July 27, will wrap up in Red Deer Thursday at the Red Deer Lodge from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“We kind of know where we stand,” said Erickson. “The government has about tied Albertans’ hands completely now. There’s no point in getting too carried away.

“But we’ve got to make it known that we still understand it’s not a good deal for Albertans.”

Rimbey is the home of Lavesta’s fiery vice-chairman Joe Anglin, who has been one of the fiercest opponents of the government’s handling of power transmission expansion. In 2007, the Rimbey courthouse became the venue because of security concerns for a public hearing on a previous project that had generated heated opposition, shouting matches and accusations of rough handling.

Erickson said the group will continue to press the government to come clean on its intentions for the pair of proposed power lines that will bring electricity from the Edmonton area south to Calgary. Members of the group have become increasingly skeptical of the government’s insistence the lines are needed to keep the lights on in southern Alberta, he said.

They believe the lines will ultimately be used to help export energy to the U.S., and what is worse, Albertans will be expected to pay the cost of building the lines and will face higher electricity bills to boot.

While Lavesta will continue to strive to hold government accountable, Erickson admits legislative changes have made their job more difficult.

He sees Bill 50 — which allows the government to decide if new transmission lines are needed instead of taking it to a public hearing — as an assault on the rights of Albertans to question big projects.

“We certainly have been ganged up against in a big way. We’re still going to make our voice heard and do what we can until Albertans get a fair shake.”

Alberta Energy spokesman Bob McManus said the government understands not all agree with the proposed transmission plan, but he emphasized the lines are needed to carry coal-generated power south and wind-generated power north.

They are not meant for export, he said. Alberta is a net importer of electricity and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Transmission costs will be covered by those who use the power, in the form of separate charges on bills or included in the cost of electricity. About 80 per cent of transmission costs are carried by industrial and commercial users.

The government expects a typical household could see rate increases of $2 per month for each of the four proposed transmission projects over time.

McManus said while there is no public needs hearing under Bill 50, consultation with landowners remains a key part of the process.

“The area where there is the largest amount of concern for the public is when it comes down to sighting an actual transmission line, and that process will remain unchanged.”

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