Landowners question need for power line

Landowners attending an information session on a proposed power line expressed frustration that the need for the project was off limits to an upcoming Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) review.

Array

Array

RIMBEY — Landowners attending an information session on a proposed power line expressed frustration that the need for the project was off limits to an upcoming Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) review.

Several speakers questioned AUC officials on Wednesday evening about how they could determine whether the project to string a 500-kilovolt power line from Edmonton to Calgary was in the public interest if the commission could not assess whether the project was needed.

AUC spokesman Jim Law said its role is to determine whether the route outlined in the yet-to-be-filed application for the power line is in the public interest when economic, environmental and social factors are considered. The need for the line has already been determined by the provincial cabinet.

That last comment drew a round of skeptical laughter from many in the audience of about 30 who turned out at the Rimbey Community Centre.

Bentley resident Randy Screpnek said he came to the meeting because he was concerned about the effect of the project on future power bills. He grilled the AUC representatives on whether the project could be turned down if it was determined it amounted to an “over-build.”

The AUC said the type of line needed, its voltage and the necessity of it running from Edmonton to Calgary have been determined by cabinet. What the AUC must determine is whether the route is suitable.

Screpnek said afterward he still questions the project.

“I didn’t get a comfortable feeling that I got the answer I was looking for as far as whether they could deny on the basis of the economics of it being an excessive over-build.”

He was left with the understanding a line will go somewhere, only the route is in question.

“That’s my feeling at this point. That’s kind of what I gathered with the way they talked when I asked them that question point blank.”

Bill Kinley, of the landowner group UPTAG, said if the project’s need has been established how can the public interest be properly taken into account.

Kinley said the meeting showed him “the AUC are powerless to do anything.”

He remains convinced the goal of the power line is to create a taxpayer-funded network to export electricity to the U.S.

The Western Alberta Transmission Line would run about 330 km from the Genesee area southwest of Edmonton to Langdon near Calgary.

Two new north-south 500-kilovolt lines have been identified by the province under the Electric Uitilities Act as two of the four projects considered critical infrastructure, including the Western Transmission Line and the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line. Under that act, also known as Bill 50, transmission projects can be approved through a streamlined process.

Bill 50 has been criticized by some landowner groups as an assault on property rights because it allows a project application to go forward without a public hearing to determine whether it is needed.

This was the second of six information sessions organized by the AUC to provide information on the regulatory approval process, give people an opportunity to register as intervenors and outline how to access funding.

The commission considers those who own or live on land within 800 metres of the edges of the finalized rights of way for the proposed and alternate routes can be considered to be directly or adversely affected by the projects and qualify as intervenors in the public hearing process.

Other information sessions in Central Alberta:

• Thursday – Red Deer, 7 p.m. at Holiday Inn 67, 6500 67th St.

• March 1 – Ponoka, 7 p.m. at Kinsmen Community Centre