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LLG Succeeds in Appeal Before Alberta Utilities Commission

Media Release: Livingstone Landowners Group
December 2, 2011

Landowners Win Regulatory Accountability

The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) has won a major victory for responsible electricity development in southern Alberta but expects a long war. 

In a 26-page ruling the Alberta Utilities Commission has told AltaLink, a transmission builder and the Alberta Electric System Operator, the province's electricity planner,  that their plans to build a new transmission line through some of the province's most scenic and iconic landscapes are technically illegal because the need for this specific line has not been approved by the Commission. 

Moreover the Commission found that AESO's position was wrong because it would have constituted a denial of procedural fairness to landowners. 

1. Earlier this year the Livingstone Landowners Group, which represents more than 100 landowners and ratepayers in the region, and other intervenors such as the Alberta Wilderness Association, challenged the planning and routing of a 240 kV line through some of Alberta’s most famous landscapes without proper notification, study or consideration of alternatives.

2. AltaLink, a firm wholly owned by Montreal-based SNC Lavalin, has proposed a variety of transmission routes to support industrial wind farms that would effectively industrialize and fragment the Porcupine Hills, the Old Man River Basin and the Livingstone Range. 

The decision basically means that AESO must file a new needs assessment for transmission lines to connect industrial wind farms or amend its plan for southern Alberta and then properly consult with landowners. 

The LLG  has argued that AltaLink and AESO must follow their own guidelines and use existing utility corridors for new transmission lines. 

During a three-day hearing in August in Pincher Creek, Alberta representatives of AESO, the electricity planner, had difficulty even identifying prominent geographic name places in southern Alberta.  

Landowners, economists and lawyers across the province have raised serious questions about controversial legislation and government policy that supports $13-billion worth of new transmission lines largely without proper full cost accounting and needs assessments. 

Open Letter of the Livingstone Landowners Group Regarding A Significant Proposed Transmission Development

Dear Editor

The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) is a not for profit group of dedicated Albertans who are concerned about the way in which our Province is managing development.  Recently, AltaLink proposed placing 240 kV transmission lines through the Porcupine Hills, the Old Man River Basin and the Livingstone Range.

The LLG supports approved, sustainable wind energy and understands the need for transmission interconnection that is considerate of local citizens and environment.  The LLG supports thoughtful development that follows rationale consistent with Government of Alberta Land Use Framework and The Southern Foothills Study.

The LLG understands and acknowledges that wind development either proposed, under construction or recently completed has an approved transmission interconnection under the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR).  In September of 2009 the Alberta Utility Commission (AUC) approved a 240 kV connection from Goose Lake (existing substation south of Old Man Reservoir) to Crowsnest (proposed substation, legal land description: Sec 4-8-3W5M) for wind generation interconnection.

In January of 2010 the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) apparently altered course and directed AltaLink to pursue a transmission interconnection from Fidler (proposed substation east of the Old Man Reservoir) to Chapel Rock (proposed substation near Maycroft) instead of the approved Goose Lake to Crowsnest proposal.

In an effort to reduce confusion between the many parties (and acronyms) involved we include a flow chart of the governing body, applicants and facility owners and brief description so average Albertans can better understand who is doing what. (See the chart in this link: table.pdf

As a result of the deviation from the approved Goose Lake to Crowsnest, the LLG is opposing the Fidler to Chapel Rock transmission proposal.  This opposition would not be necessary should the transmission proposal be corrected to the approved Goose Lake to Crowsnest as described in the SATR Approval.  LLG has consistently conveyed its position to AltaLink (and indirectly to AESO). 

The LLG opposes unplanned, indiscriminate industrialization of Alberta’s lands, especially our historically environmentally significant areas.  Unfortunately, the AESO and AltaLink’s Fidler to Chapel Rock transmission proposal advances well beyond that.

  • Many Albertans who have residences north of the Old Man Reservoir would not have offered feedback or input during the SATR proceeding as they were not deemed to be affected by the Goose Lake to Crowsnest interconnection, (they were not sent notices of the SATR application process, their lands did not appear to be affected by any maps apparently published in the papers, and the materials and Open Houses themselves said nothing about any possibility of a route north of the Reservoir) yet the altered transmission line proposal now impacts these same Albertans.
  • The SATR Approval recognized an area called “swath boundaries” and the AUC “strongly encouraged” AltaLink to stay within them (including a swath boundary for the Approved Goose Lake to Crowsnest line), yet virtually the entire line now being proposed is well outside those boundaries, as far as 30 km away to Maycroft.
  • AESO applied for and received Approval for the Goose Lake to Crowsnest transmission line under SATR.  The AUC didn’t arbitrarily select “Crowsnest” rather, the AESO asked for and received permission to build a substation called Crowsnest at Sec 4-8-3W5M.  Applicable consultation, hearings and research has been completed to approve Goose Lake to Crowsnest, but the AESO has apparently directed AltaLink to proceed in a different direction where there had been no consultation and no Approval, as a result LLG is intervening.
  • The majority of the Fidler to Chapel Rock proposal travels through areas that are not wind interest zones.  One of the advantages to the Approved Goose to Crowsnest transmission line is that the majority of that line will be built within the wind interest zone, better enabling wind farms to interconnect.  This is a fundamental design element, the infrastructure required to connect wind farms to existing electric transmission should be contained wherever possible (local citizens and environment permitting) to wind interest zones.

AESO and AltaLink arbitrarily and presumptuously choose to ignore the (SATR) Approval they themselves asked for and were granted. AESO have chosen to pursue construction of something very different from that which they sought and received approval of. This departure from the Approval led the AUC, in late Fall of 2010, to issue written questions of AESO. In May, the AUC itself directed a preliminary issues hearing over these questions. The Preliminary Issues Hearings scheduled for the summer of 2011 could potentially delay the process and concern has been raised that this hearing may delay the process of interconnecting wind farms, but that responsibility rests with those who ignore the approval process. Enel Energy (apparently Europe's third-largest energy supplier) and other wind farm owners who built windmills anticipating connection, (whose farms would appear to have been completed early in any event ), will need to wait even longer for connectivity because they are now caught by the AUC-initiated process of assessing AESO's departure from the Approval.

As noted earlier, the LLG acknowledges the large capital investment being made in Southern Alberta which benefits all Albertans, including members and friends of the LLG. The LLG is engaged since the AESO did not give notice to LLG members in the first place, since it is not following the SATR Approval, since it and its TFO AltaLink are proposing to cross large tracts of ecologically valuable heritage landscapes versus using existing disturbed corridors, and since they are not establishing and applying meaningful environmental criteria for routing. There are overarching priorities for the South East Slopes of Alberta expressed by Albertans partly out of concern for future generations that take many forms including the Southern Foothills Study and the ongoing Land Use Framework process. There is a right way for this project to proceed and the LLG has felt a need to advocate for this project to proceed the right way.

As noted above, if AESO and AltaLink connected new windfarms to Goose Lake and then on to Crowsnest as per their original request to the AUC, considerate of the concerns of local citizens and the environment  - LLG would have no objection whatsoever. Signed,

“The Livingstone Landowners Group”
The LLG is soliciting contributions from local ratepayers to consult legal experts for an action regarding these proposed lines. We are also talking to citizens who have already retained legal counsel to protect their property rights in MD 9, so that any efforts in this regard are coordinated as much as possible. If you would like to contribute, please contact our vice president Bruce Mowat. 

We have formed an LLG AltaLink Project Committee to deal with this situation with a view to challenging the needs process; stopping the project; pushing for routing that would be acceptable to the majority of residents, or trying to convince the proponent into using buried lines technology.