Residents charged up over power lines

Residents from Red Deer’s Pines neighbourhood are heading to City Hall on Monday to appeal for support in their bid to reroute a power line.

Residents from Red Deer’s Pines neighbourhood are heading to City Hall on Monday to appeal for support in their bid to reroute a power line.

Ashley Meyers, who lives near a right-of-way that has been approved for a higher-voltage power line, hopes to see a dozen to 20 residents make the trip to the mayor’s second-floor office to press their case.

The Pines Group, which represents about 50 residents, has officially applied for a review of an Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) decision in July to allow AltaLink to keep its upgraded power line in an existing right-of-way.

Property owners are frustrated that their proposed alternate route, which had moved a stretch of the power line away from homes and to the bottom of an escarpment, was not even considered by the AUC panel. An AltaLink alternate route that involved a much smaller detour was considered but not adopted.

Meyers, who is married with young sons, is concerned about the health impacts on her family from electric and magnetic fields (EMF) that will be given off by the higher-voltage power lines to run behind her house.

“I wouldn’t put this much time and effort in if I wasn’t scared,” she said.

Meyers said she would not have bought her home last November if she had known about the looming power line project, which is part of a $350-million upgrade of transmission capacity in Central Alberta.

AltaLink says that the World Health Organization and Health Canada have been reviewing EMF for 40 years and no recommendations have been made that people limit their everyday exposure to EMF from power lines.

That sort of response does not ease Meyers’ fears. She points out asbestos, tobacco and the chemical Bisphenol A, found in plastics and now declared toxic, were all considered safe initially.

The new power lines will also be bigger, uglier and will hurt property values, residents argue.

A Pines Group representative made a detailed presentation to the AUC panel during a public hearing in Red Deer in March. But residents believe by not addressing the panel individually the depth of local concern was not appreciated by the AUC.

Many believe the panel dismissed residents’ concerns and want the AUC to tour the site to get a clear picture of the situation.

Meyers doesn’t feel AltaLink was seriously interested in hearing residents’ concerns or open to their alternate route.

Residents want to get as many concerned people as possible to pass their views on to the AUC and join the call for a review by the Tuesday deadline.

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