The Alberta Utilities Commission has rejected a bid to put on hold public hearings that began in Red Deer this week on a controversial $1.4-billion power line project.
A lawyer for one of the landowner groups objecting to the Western Alberta Transmission Line had applied for an adjournment, arguing the hearing should not go ahead until the Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled on an issue that came out of the contentious Heartland power line hearings in Edmonton last year.
Since that decision may dictate the scope of how public interest should be considered by the three-member commission panel, the appeal court’s decision could directly affect the hearing that got underway on Monday, argued Gavin Fitch, who is representing the 566 Corridor Group.
Fitch told the panel on Tuesday there was a risk the public hearing process would have to start all over again if the appeal court ruled public interest had not been adequately addressed.
In a ruling released late Wednesday afternoon, the commission says it “believes that proceeding now is not a waste of time, it allows examination of the evidence already filed and will ultimately save time and reduce the prejudice to landowners who have had to wait many years for a resolution of this project.
“The parties are ready to go, the evidence is relevant regardless of the Alberta Court of Appeal decision . . .”
AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner said they are pleased with the decision and the opportunity to move the project forward.
“We agree with the AUC in their assessment that many landowners have been working and living with this project for a number of years and moving it forward is in the best interests of a number of these landowners at the same time.”
Commission spokesman Jim Law said the hearings will resume this morning at the Holiday Inn 67th Street, with AltaLink expected to discuss its proposal to build the 350-km north-south line from Genesee power generators southwest of Edmonton to Langdon near Calgary. It will then be cross-examined by intervenors and the commission.
Critics of the power line project call it an expensive over-build that is not needed.
AltaLink and the Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees the province’s power grid, says the line is required to keep up with the province’s growth and ensure electricity supply remains reliable and cost-efficient.