Landowners to take Altalink battle to the Supreme Court

Kurt Kure needs no reminder of what he is fighting for on his property near the Dickson Dam. A transmission tower overshadows a scenic plot of land he had reserved for his dream home.

Kurt Kure needs no reminder of what he is fighting for on his property near the Dickson Dam.

A transmission tower overshadows a scenic plot of land he had reserved for his dream home.

“Their the tallest towers on the line. You can see them from Innisfail,” he said. “You can’t get away from it. It’s like a looming giant.”

But that was before AltaLink came calling and told him that was where they wanted to put some of the hundreds of towers erected to string a 500-kilovolt power line from Genesee, near Edmonton, to Langdon, just west of Calgary.

Kure and his Ontario lawyer, Donald Bur, unsuccessfully appealed a right-of-entry order granted AltaLink that allowed it to build the transmission tower on Kure’s land.

The pair went to Red Deer provincial court last August seeking a judicial review of the right-of-entry order. But the order was allowed to stand.

Now, Kure and his lawyer are taking their fight to the Supreme Court.

The gist of their legal argument against the right-of-entry order is that the Alberta Surface Rights Board, which granted the permission, did not have the authority.

Bur has argued on behalf of Kure and other clients that the transmission line’s ultimate purpose is to export electricity to the U.S., which puts the project beyond the Surface Rights Board’s authority.

Those arguments have not held water with Alberta’s Court of Appeal, or by a Red Deer provincial court judge, who was asked last August to order a judicial review of the right-of-entry approval.

Judges ruled that the landowners’ position amounted to a “collateral attack” on the Alberta Utilities Commission, which had already determined the line was not for export.

Kure and his lawyer are now taking their case to the highest court in the land. A leave to appeal has been submitted and they expect to find out in the next couple of months or so if the Supreme Court will hear their arguments.

The oilpatch consultant and married father of 11 children said he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t think they had a shot. Now, it’s just a waiting game.

That the taxpayer-funded line will ever be used for power export has long been denied by the province, AltaLink, Alberta Utilities Commission, and Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees Alberta’s power grid.

Despite those repeated assurances, critics have been persistent in their accusations that the power line project, and a matching one on the east side of the province, are a massive over-build that only makes sense if export is the long-term goal.

The sale of AltaLink to U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy has only reinforced those suspicions.

“One of the concerns is that we’re building something for private gain and the landowner takes the brunt of the abuse from the process,” he said. “It’s not a fair compensation process at all.”

Kure said he has not agreed to compensation with AltaLink.

“They weren’t even close to the reality of the situation, at least on this property, because it’s where we were wanting to build a house,” he said.

A compensation hearing at the Surface Rights Board is set for next April.

Landowners have complained that they are not getting fair compensation for the power lines. The Alberta Surface Rights Board is weakening their negotiating position by granting right-of entry orders before the property owner has settled a price.

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