Alberta residents go to court to stop the Heartland transmission project

Alberta residents are asking the Alberta Court of Appeal to hear an application to halt the Heartland transmission line. Court papers charge the Alberta Utilities Commission’s (AUC) Nov. 1 decision to approve the line was incorrect, and was unduly influenced by comments from Premier Alison Redford.

The Alberta Ministry of Energy was not surprised by the action. “We actually expected somebody would appeal [the decision],” a spokesperson for Energy Minister Ted Morton told TransmissionHub. “Now we’ll just respect the process and see where it takes us.”

The lawyer representing the residents said Premier Redford coerced the AUC by publicly stating her support for the project, and that Redford and Energy Minister Ted Morton interfered in the AUC proceedings. Morton flatly denied the charge and called it “grandstanding.”

The lawyer also said the AUC’s decision should be overturned because the panel didn’t take into account the social and economic effects of the line. Morton countered, however, that social, economic, and safety impacts were taken into account by the AUC. Discussions of health and safety issues, property impacts, environmental issues, and cost comparisons comprise nearly one-third of the AUC’s 373-page decision.

Some residents charge there isn’t a need for the new line. However, Rule 50, passed in 2009 by the legislature under former premier Ed Stelmach, declared the Heartland line “critical transmission infrastructure.” Therefore, considering whether the line was needed “was not part of the AUC’s mandate.” The only decision before the panel was the line’s routing, an AUC spokesperson told TransmissionHub.

The AUC spokesperson would not discuss the court action directly.

The court action is at least the second appeal of the AUC’s decision. The County of Strathcona, through which the 66-km (41-mi), 500-kv line will run, filed an application with the AUC on Nov. 25, asking that it “review and vary” its decision on the Heartland line. The AUC has not yet taken action on that application.