Kudos to the AUC for enhancing public participation

Kudos to the AUC for enhancing public participation

By Cindy Chiasson

This week, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) announced it will provide an enhanced participation process for the proposed Heartland Transmission Project.  The project involves construction of a 500 kilovolt electricity transmission line from south Edmonton to the Fort Saskatchewan region, and is the first of the critical infrastructure projects designated under Bill 50.

Why should anyone care, you ask?  Two reasons.

First, the AUC is setting out a clear process early on.  Although the application for regulatory approval won’t likely be filed until this spring, the AUC has shown foresight in getting an early start on the process by inviting potentially affected persons to become involved, clearly laying out how people can do so, and planning future information sessions to further explain its hearing process.  This is the first major transmission line hearing since the disastrous hearing before the old Energy and Utilities Board in 2007 on a proposed Edmonton-Calgary 500 KV line, and the first hearing dealing with a project designated as critical infrastructure under Bill 50.  The Heartland Transmission Project has generated a lot of public interest and controversy already, and the AUC is taking the first steps to ensure everyone who could be involved is clear on how the hearing process will unfold.

Secondly, and most significantly, the AUC has taken an unprecedented step by indicating that people living or owning property within 800 metres of the proposed routes will be presumed to have standing (the right to participate in the hearing), with the ultimate determination to be made once the regulatory application containing the finalized route has been filed.  This is noteworthy because standing has traditionally been interpreted and applied in a very narrow fashion by Alberta’s regulatory tribunals.  For a comparison, consider that for the typical sweet oil or gas well, only landowners of the wellsite and access properties and residents within 200 metres of the proposed well have the right to participate in a hearing.

The AUC has taken a positive first step to provide clear direction on public involvement in what is already a controversial project.  The Centre looks forward to seeing how the process will unfold, and our staff is happy to answer questions on regulatory process, public participation and electricity regulation.

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4 Comments
  • Cindy Chiasson
    Posted at 14:20h, 25 January Reply

    I’m currently checking with the AUC on the number of people who could have standing on this project.

    Regarding class concerns, the AUC’s bulletin on this project encourages people who have similar interests or concerns to collaborate on involvement in the regulatory process. Interveners eligible for costs from the AUC can be individuals, groups or associations of persons. The AUC’s Rule 009 on Local Intervener Costs provides for an honorarium of up to $500 to organizers of groups participating as interveners.

    • Cindy Chiasson
      Posted at 10:33h, 26 January Reply

      I checked with the AUC regarding the number of people who could have standing on the Heartland Transmission project. They advised that the numbers will ultimately depend on the route(s) submitted as part of the approval application. Altalink and Epcor (the project proponents) could choose to submit only the preferred route or both the preferred and an alternate route for consideration by the AUC.

      The AUC indicated that a mail out that they did about the enhanced participation process, based on postal codes in the areas of the current preferred and alternate routes, went to 50,000 addresses. They expect that a significant number of people will want to participate in the hearing.

      • Cindy Chiasson
        Posted at 10:58h, 04 February Reply

        A clarification is in order regarding the information above on numbers of persons who could have standing on the Heartland Transmission project. I was contacted by Geoff Scotton, Senior Communications Advisor with the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). He advised that while the AUC has done extensive circulation of their bulletin, it was Epcor and Altalink, the companies backing this project, that have done direct mailouts to addresses along the two routes, and that the figure of 50,000 addresses has been referred to frequently in media reports.

        I also wanted to share Mr. Scotton’s comments regarding the AUC’s approach: “Given the scope and nature of the anticipated application and proceeding, we are genuinely trying to make our process as transparent and open as possible, to give individuals and groups a range of opportunities to participate, and to give people a chance to start their potential interaction with advisors and legal counsel as early as possible. In short, we are trying to provide greater certainty, earlier, about our process.”

        Our thanks to Mr. Scotton for the clarification and his willingness to share his comments with our readers.

  • Adam Driedzic, ELC (Edmonton)
    Posted at 08:57h, 22 January Reply

    Do you know the number of people that would have standing by living within 800m of the proposed routes?

    Is there a process for class concerns?

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