The Lavesta Area Group and the UPTAG Association are extremely disappointed with the recent announcement by Environment Minister Rob Renner to eliminate the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for 500KV transmission line proposals.
In his announcement Mr. Renner said his experience shows Albertans’ concerns over transmission lines are related to routing, land management and human health. Alberta Environment spokeswoman Kim Capstick added, “The environmental impact of most transmission projects is generally straightforward. When it comes to transmission lines, the environmental questions are pretty clear. The environmental impact is poles in the ground.”
As the Chairman of the Lavesta Area Group, I am embarrassed that the minister and his spokeswoman would make such uninformed statements. Had either of them attended any of the 500KV line hearings, (Alberta Environment is required to attend but refused), they would have clearly understood the public’s primary concern was lack of access to a fair hearing and due process of law. Ms Capstick’s comments also insults the intelligence of the general public involved in these matters. They highlight her complete and utter lack of understanding of the most elementary issues dealing with environmental concerns surrounding transmission lines. Transmission lines such as a 500 KV line, significantly alter habitat by clear-cutting large swaths (miles) of forested land, displacing birds, bees, and wildlife. It can also directly affect sensitive wetlands. The majority of this takes place on private property.
Environmental Impact Assessments, (EIA), are an important aspect of every major industrial development. Property owners have a right to know what impact a project will have on their land. Communities share the same concerns. An EIA report gives a property owner and the community affected a starting point, or knowledge base, from which to measure environmental changes moving forward into the future. Absent of an EIA requirement, the minister is saying we will move forward blindly, ignorant of what impact a mega-project such as a 500 KV line may have on the environment.
The minister’s announcement also included the age-old fear tactic that Albertans could face rotating blackouts if important transmission projects are not completed on an urgent basis. We respectfully would like to inform the Minister; TransAlta’s President Steve Snyder, [Edmonton Journal April 25], registered his bewilderment with public opposition to the export of Alberta’s excess electricity and TransCanada’s CEO Hal Kvisle [Globe & Mail December 19, 2007] worried; without links to the United States Alberta would have too much electricity and plummeting prices. God forgive us if Albertan protected the environment and paid cheaper electricity prices!
Our group has never been opposed to transmission lines. We actually agree Alberta’s transmission system needs upgrading. We are just vehemently opposed to undemocratic processes that allow greedy corporate executives to exploit a public need, in an effort to line their pockets. If an EMT at an accident scene steals a wallet off a victim, politicians would all be horrified. But if corporate executives get caught trying to exploit the public for profit, our government changes the rules to make it easier! What’s wrong with this picture?
Lavesta Area Group