Province guessing on Heartland costs: Tory MLA
Published Saturday, March 19, 2011 6:39PM MDT
As hundred of Albertans gathered at the legislature Saturday to demand the government ensure a multi-million dollar power line goes underground, one member of the Stelmach administration admitted his party doesn't have the information needed to take a responsible stance on the issue.
"The difficulty I have is no one seems to know at this point the cost and I'm quite troubled by that," said Strathcona MLA Dave Quest of the Heartland project.
"There were some cost guess-timates but… I would have some concerns about the accuracy."
The group Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans (RETA) organized Saturday's rally three weeks before the Alberta Utilities Commission will review an application for the project.
Epcor and Altalink hope to build a 65-kilometre, double circuit 500kV transmission line, connecting a region northeast of Fort Saskatchewan to existing 500kV transmission facilities.
RETA believes burying the lines would minimize health risks and dips in property values, amongst other things. While the group suggests this can be done for an additional $50 million, Epcor has a very different figure.
Spokesperson Tim le Riche says an all-aerial line is projected to cost $580 million. In comparison, his company estimates it would cost $1.1 billion to bury a 20-kilometre section from the Ellerslie substation south of Anthony Henday Drive near 91st Street to north of Baseline Road, east of Anthony Henday Drive.
"We are not recommending the lines be buried because when all the factors are considered, we don't think it's warranted," he said.
RETA president Bruce Johnson says another study commissioned by the province showed the price of underground lines could be four to twenty times higher – something he argues is off the mark.
"We believe the cost side of this has to be addressed publicly and that's part of what we're going to talk about today," he said.
"We're heading into a leadership race and probably an election not too far after that and we want to put this on the political agenda. We think this is very important.
"We want to send a message to our elected officials that they need to start listening to Albertans…If we have to drag it into the political forum, we will."
For now, representatives from the premier's office say the government won't get involved because it's up to the Alberta Utilities Commission to decide on a route and whether burying lines is necessary. A hearing on the matter is scheduled to start April 11th and is expected to last until the end of May.
"The AUC is a pseudo-judicial body that operates at arms length from government," said Jerry Bellikka, a spokesperson for Stelmach, by email Saturday. "Government does not have role in determining the outcome of the hearing process. The AUC will render a decision after considering all of the input from all sides."
For more information on the Heartland project, click here.
With Files from Kevin Armstrong