Alberta regulators to convene hearings on EATL

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will convene hearings on the proposed Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) on July 23 in Stettler, AB.

The hearing on ATCO Electric’s EATL application will start at 9:00 a.m. July 23, providing commission members with virtually no break between the hearing for AltaLink’s Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL), which started June 11 and is expected to conclude July 20, and the EATL hearing.

As with the WATL hearing, the EATL hearing will include the main sessions during business hours, as well as “community sessions” in the evenings during the first week to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the project. Community sessions will be held in Forestburg and Camrose, AB.

The proposed C$1.6bn (US$1.57bn) EATL project consists of a 500-kV HVDC transmission line running approximately 487 km (302 miles) between the Gibbons and Redwater area northeast of Edmonton and the Brooks area southeast of Calgary. The project also includes plans to build a new converter station and related facilities at each end of the new line to convert power from AC to DC.

Shortly before the hearing on the WATL began, opponents filed a motion to halt the hearing pending a ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal on the Heartland transmission project. The Heartland project involves construction of a 500-kV line to connect the Heartland region northeast of Fort Saskatchewan to existing 500-kV transmission facilities that currently run along the southern edge of Edmonton.

The motion for adjournment stated the hearing should be halted because of a March 28 court decision, in which the court agreed there were issues regarding the Alberta Legislative Assembly’s declaration of the Heartland line as “critical transmission infrastructure” (CTI) that should be addressed by the court.

Specifically, the AUC interpreted the legislature’s declaration of the line as CTI under Bill 50, passed by the Legislative Assembly under former Premier Ed Stelmach, as the determination of need, while opponents contended the AUC still had the authority and responsibility to conduct a needs assessment for the project. Because the WATL and EATL were also declared CTI under Bill 50, passed by the legislature under Premier Ed Stelmach, opponents sought to have the WATL hearing halted pending the outcome of the case before the court of appeal.

The AUC denied the motion to halt the hearing on June 13, stating in its decision that “all of the evidence to be heard … in the hearing will be relevant to the ultimate determination of the application regardless of whether the Court of Appeal confirms the commission’s interpretation of its jurisdiction, or determines that the commission’s public interest jurisdiction should be broader.”

While admitting that such adversary actions are difficult to predict, AUC officials told TransmissionHub on July 16 that they have not heard of any plans for a similar motion to halt the EATL hearing.

“We haven’t had any motions like that filed to date,” an AUC spokesperson said, noting that challenges to the WATL hearing were discussed in the months leading up to the hearing, although the actual appeal was filed shortly before the hearings began.

AUC hearings are more analogous to a court of law than are similar hearings in the United States, the spokesperson explained.

Parties that have been deemed to have the potential to be directly and adversely affected by the commission’s decision and have been grated intervenor status have the right to participate in the hearing. Member of the public, however, attend only as observers.

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