An independent group that surveyed local MLAs regarding construction of new power transmission lines says all but one declined to respond.
Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans, representing 8,000 members, sent a multiple choice questionnaire late in January to 21 MLAs whose ridings include land that would be used in proposals for three controversial powerlines.
Questions covered topics including whether the lines are needed, their support for various bills associated with the projects, their awareness of health concerns related to high-voltage power lines and whether the Alberta Electric System Operator has fully explored alternatives.
Of all 21 MLAs surveyed, the only response was received from former Tory MLA Rob Anderson, who crossed the floor a year ago to join the Wildrose Alliance, RETA president Bruce Johnson said in a news release issued on Monday.
The 20 MLAs who did not respond are all members of the Progressive Conservative government. They include Premier Ed Stelmach and cabinet ministers Lloyd Snelgrove, Iris Evans, Jack Hayden and Gene Zwozdesky.
The Western Alberta Transmission Line, to be built by Calgary-based AltaLink, could cross ridings held by MLAs Luke Ouellette, Ray Prins, Ty Lund and Richard Marz.
MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Ouellette said he does not recall the group or the questionnaire.
“I believe in responsible transmission. I’m not so sure that this group isn’t a bit on the biased side,” Ouellette said on Tuesday.
“I get lots of emails on that stuff and I don’t answer, necessarily, very many of them. If it’s from one of my constituents, I try very hard to answer it.”
Processes have been put in place that have to be allowed to unfold, said Ouellette.
While he is leaving the fate of the Western Alberta line with the Alberta Utilities Commission, Ouellette said he shares the concerns of people around Gleniffer Lake who are upset that it will go around the reservoir rather than run parallel to the existing lines that cross from north to south.
Whether those people intend to participate in an Alberta Utilities Commission hearing about AltaLink’s application, which is still to be scheduled, is their choice, said Ouellette.
Ouellette said he has had very few calls since AltaLink’s last round of public consultations, which ended late last year.
Lund, representing Rocky Mountain House, said on Tuesday that he also does not recall the questionnaire nor is he familiar with its creators.
“I don’t recall ever seeing it. It certainly was never brought to my attention. That doesn’t mean to say it didn’t come. We get surveys from all over the place. I never recognized this RETA.”
Lund said he has had no feedback from his constituents since late last year, when AltaLink announced its final choices for a preferred and alternate route for the Western Alberta line.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that some of us did a lot of grunt work, like with the approving authority (Alberta Utilities Commission) and with the compensation.”
The group was “adamant” that the compensation paid to affected landowners would be as much or more, than the oil and gas industry would pay, said Lund.
That detail is covered in AltaLink’s application, which is now before the Alberta Utilities Commission.
Lund said he would leave it to the experts, including Alberta Electric System Operator, to determine whether the line is actually needed.
Summarizing Anderson’s response, RETA’s press release out of Edmonton says he does not think the Western Alberta Transmission Line is needed; that he does not support bills amending legislation concerning assembly land and compensating owners; and that he does not believe the AESO has adequately explored alternatives.
MLA Ray Prins and RETA president Johnson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
MLA Richard Marz was not available because of a family commitment.