By Bromley Chamberlain
Rimbey-area residents remain unconvinced.
AltaLink held an open house Sept. 1 in Rimbey to help residents understand how the planned 500-kilovolt power line might affect their lives. In attendance were 122 residents from the area and 40 AltaLink people to educate them.
After the first round of open houses AltaLink dropped some routes and refined others. Now AltaLink is back to confirm the final route.
“We’ve been asked by AESO, to find a line between the Genesee area and Langdon area,” Leigh Clarke, senior vice-president, explained. “That is not terribly easy work. We’re just trying to find one that has the lowest overall impact,” Clarke said.
Although AltaLink understands that all routes would affect Albertans, they are looking for a route with the fewest possible impacts.
“We try to listen. We came out in January-February with some routes and heard some good input from people,” Clarke said. “It allowed us to drop some routes and add some more in. We’re in round 2. Two is all about listening.”
The open house was to help the Rimbey–area residents who will be affected by the lines understand how it will change their lives, and for them to ask questions.
“Let folks who might be affected by these lines, understand the process we go through at AltaLink.” Clarke said.
“But we’ve got a bunch more listening to do here before we get to that point,” Clarke said. “Once we’ve gotten to that point, if people want to challenge what we’ve done, they can come into the utility commission and come to the hearing.”
During the open houses across Alberta, Clarke said they get mixed opinions.
“We get folks who are not interested in the power line on their land, and I can appreciate that. We also get people who recognize at the end of the day it’s time. We’ve got to do something that re-enforces the system, so you get a real mix,” Clarke said.
The current system, nearing 40 years old, is too heavily loaded, Clarke said, and heat loss costs Albertans about $4 million a month.
Joe Anglin, a vocal opponent of the power line, attended the open house and again let his thoughts on the subject be known. He challenged all that Clarke had to say.
“Everything he just told you is bullshit,” Anglin said. “For us, they can’t even tell us the truth: it’s for export.”
Anglin claims that AltaLink has had the law changed for its benefit.
“Now when an application is brought forward by the AESO it may be required. They slipped in the three little words: it may be required.
“And they take it one step further. The law used to read when we paid for it as the public it had to be for our present and future need,” Anglin said.
Previously, the law stated that the needs of Albertans today, was the key factor.
“So we had to look at this project they’re proposing; it had to meet our need today, there had to be some value today and there had to be some value into the future. They removed that from law,” Anglin said.
Stan Wickberg, whose home, if the proposed route is followed, would be 1.5 miles from the line, said the same thing.
“I think they are just getting everything ready to export a whole bunch of power to the States at our expense. That’s the way it looks to me.” Wickberg said.
“Nobody will talk to me about that (the need.) They all tell me, we’re so short, we’re so short (of power.) It’s going to save us money. But, whether or not we really need it, I don’t know.”
Cost was a concern for many people at the open house. They don’t want to see their power bills rise.
“They’re spending our money for this line. Yet we have no right to even question if it’s needed for the public. When you look at how much they are planning to charge us for this it’s absolutely ridiculous, we can’t afford it,” Anglin said.
“Ever since they started privatizing things, they’ve tripled my power bill, my usage is still the same, but my power bill’s tripled,” Wickberg added. “They’ve got all theses extra charges on it. This is just going to be one more extra charge.”
Anglin encouraged people in Rimbey not to go to the open house.
“We’re not going to discuss a line location with these people. This is not about a line location. This is about our rights: our democratic rights and our rights to due process of law.