Alberta regulators set to convene hearings on WATL, EATL

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will start hearings on the proposed Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) June 11, followed by hearings for the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) in July, during which the AUC will consider the impacts of the lines’ routes, but not the need for the lines.

“It’s hard to predict but, based on past experience, the hearings can go four to five weeks depending on the issues and the complexity of the issues,” an AUC spokesperson told TransmissionHub on June 8.

The hearing on the WATL will be held in the community of Red Deer, Alberta. In addition to the main sessions during business hours, the AUC will hold “community sessions” in the evening of the first week in Red Deer, Rimbey, Didsbury, and Indus, to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the project proposed by AltaLink.

Unlike similar hearings in the U.S., Alberta’s system only allows comments from persons who have applied for, and been granted, intervenor status.

“It is an orderly forum, similar to a court of law,” the spokesperson said. “If you have been deemed to have the potential to be directly and adversely affected by the commission’s decision, you have the right to participate in the hearing and be heard. Member of the public … attend as observers.”

The AUC’s role in both the WATL and the EATL hearings is to determine whether approvals will be in the public interest, considering social, economic, and environmental impacts, the spokesperson said.

“It’s the routing and the location of the facilities that the AUC is required to consider,” the spokesperson said. The need for the lines is not subject to AUC consideration because both lines were declared critical transmission infrastructure by provincial legislation.

The WATL is a C$1.4bn (US$1.36bn), high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) power line project that will stretch 347 kilometers (215 miles) from Edmonton to Calgary and Brooks.

A similar hearing on ATCO Electric’s EATL application will start July 23 in Stettler, Alberta, with evening community sessions in Forestburg and Camrose, Alberta. The proposed C$1.6bn (US$1.56bn) project consists of two converter stations and a 487-km (302 mile) HVDC transmission line.

Both lines were declared critical transmission infrastructure under Bill 50, passed by the legislature under Premier Ed Stelmach. The critical transmission review committee reaffirmed the need for the lines in February.