As a landowner in Central Alberta, and an intervener in the Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) hearing, I’m appalled by the lack of power of everyday Albertans who own land.
Perhaps even more alarming is the abuse of power by our government, and the absolute arrogance of the Alberta government to bestow that power upon corporations, specifically in this case, AltaLink.
When the Alberta government introduced Bill 50 in 2009, which many speculate was composed in the backroom of Alberta’s provincial cabinet, alongside the utility companies and AESO, it extinguished the rights of the public, industry, and the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to determine necessity. This in effect stripped everyday Albertans of their right to fair and due process when it comes to utility companies developing on private lands.
Industry, landowners, municipalities, and consumer groups have opposed Bill 50 and claimed the projects associated with it to be a gross overbuild and contrary to the best interests of Albertans.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this ordeal for my family, and many landowners like myself, is that we have not been privy to any data or research indicating the need for these lines, yet we as Albertans are required to pay 100 per cent of the cost of the lines, while the transmission companies like AltaLink own them and reap a guaranteed nine per cent annual return on our investment.
Not only does AltaLink stand to make billions of dollars from the investment of Alberta taxpayers, the landowners who make the greatest sacrifice by having monstrous transmission lines on their property pay even further by having their health, safety, property values, farming operations, and overall quality of life negatively impacted.
The blatant disregard, and disrespect to landowners and Albertans, as a whole is truly unacceptable. Considering even the Mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, who arguably represents the city consuming the most power in the province of Alberta, states that the WATL is a “terrible idea” and that much of the transmission won’t be required because of the city-owned utility’s Shepard Project, it begs the question of “Why?”
Cables sent from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa in 2003 and 2008 indicate “why” as Alberta politicians offered to export power to the United States using excess electricity generated by oil sands facilities.
It is also extremely disconcerting to me, as it should be to all Albertans, that the Government of Alberta, which is obliged to conduct itself in the best interests of all Albertans, has handed over a contract to AltaLink with no competitive bidding process.
The fact that my family, and many others like ours are in this unfortunate predicament, is infuriating, but what compounds that anger is the fact that the process by which landowners intervene is unfair and truly only serves those who have the time, money, and skill set to do so.
John Kristensen (Technical VP of Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertan) says it best when he suggests that this whole process is really just “theatre”. I would go a step further and make the statement that this process is more like puppetry, with the PC government, AltaLink, and AESO collaborating in the role of puppet master, holding the strings, and the AUC playing the role of puppet. This theatrical production is intended to appease interveners, who, in essence, are mere spectators.
I am overcome with sadness, and anger regarding the little influence we have over land that has been in our family for decades.
With the impending 500kV transmission line looming less than a few hundred metres from our new home, and zigzagging across our agricultural lands, compounded by the fact that I refuse to allow my children to use the towers as playground equipment, it will certainly force us from our home and our heritage.
As I watch my little ones playing in the field, I realize that this may be one of the last opportunities to savour this cherished image of my children celebrating the land of their forefathers and I am rendered utterly powerless.