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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Livingstone Landowners Group asks Premier Notley to reconsider $500M infrastructure project

Power infrastructure near Pincher Creek (Photo 18 May 2015)

Livingstone Landowners Group press release

  1. The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) does not endorse any AltaLink route proposals, as we are not proponents of a new power line in the area.
  2. Given the values at stake and recent changes in the electric energy sector, LLG has requested the Premier of Alberta to re-evaluate the need for this proposed line and consider whether it should be deferred or cancelled.
  3. The cost of proposed line has ballooned from original estimate 7 years ago of $189 million to somewhere between $350 and $750 million now. The line will be paid for by Albertans and Alberta businesses through increases to electricity bills - a high price to pay for something that, based on the original assumptions, is now unnecessary.
  4. The LLG engaged a recognized engineering expert and has provided AESO with two alternatives that are one fifth of the cost and would have minimal environmental impact.
  5. The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) sets clear direction that new development should minimize landscape fragmentation and be concentrated in existing developed areas. The LLG supports this policy direction.

Background:

The LLG believes the proposed new AltaLink transmission line could have significant negative impacts on sustainable agriculture operations, native biodiversity and one of Canada’s most scenic landscapes.

Ongoing changes in the energy sector have resulted in re-evaluation and subsequent cancellation of other portions of the Southwest Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) that were previously considered necessary. In light of this, and given the significant environmental risks, the LLG has asked Premier Prentice to order a re-assessment of the SATR including the need for new transmission capacity in our area. The risk of lasting harm warrants careful consideration of whether a costly new line is even needed.

LLG has advised AltaLink that, should a line be developed, it is essential to avoid native fescue grassland and other sensitive environmental areas that are difficult or impossible to fully restore, and to avoid further fragmentation of a landscape of which our members are careful stewards. The SSRP provides policy direction for development in our area. Released by the Government of Alberta in September 2014, it specifies that new development must be concentrated whenever possible in areas already disturbed by previous development.

AltaLink’s routing options presented in January for the proposed transmission line demonstrate that the company understands our concerns and the SSRP policy direction and can find route options that use existing industrial corridors, but also that the company remains willing to deviate into environmentally-sensitive lands where a new line would cause lasting harm.

All of AltaLink's new route options violate the SSRP and would further fragment and industrialize the LLG landscape. Part of one new route option in particular, impinges on an important wildlife corridor and natural habitat whose protection has been the subject of significant investment by Albertans, the Southern Alberta Land Trust Society, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Government of Alberta.

Centre Peak – the highest point on the Livingstone Mountain Range and Chapel Butte in front (photo 18 May 2015) – part of the viewscape along the Cowboy Trail – Hwy 22, considered among the top ten most scenic drives in Canada.

The premise in SATR for the Castle Rock to Chapel Rock transmission line has been: a) to allow more wind development in the Pincher Creek area; and b) to provide “redundancy” to avoid a repeat of the 2011 power generation shortage. Both premises are no longer true or needed based on AESO’s own analysis. New wind development in the area is not needed and the new generation capacity (wind and natural gas in other areas) has effectively negated the redundancy issue. It appears that moving forward with this line is largely in AltaLink's interest but with little concern for the public interest. In a time of economic restraint, unnecessary infrastructure development would not be prudent.

The LLG believes existing wind generation in the Pincher Creek area is functioning well with recent transmission upgrades and does not need this added Castle Rock Ridge-Chapel Rock line. Over 90% of the proposed wind projects in the AESO queue were initially stalled by lack of transmission access; however, these projects are no longer economically viable due to wind pattern in the Pincher area creating a discounted price for producers and new wind turbine technology favoring development elsewhere. The AESO must stay current with market realities to ensure costly transmission projects are not built using outdated rationale.

LLG supports the development of wind and other forms of alternate energy as a means of reducing Alberta’s reliance on coal-generated electricity and to improve our energy reputation. We note, however, that improvements in wind generation technology actually reduce the likelihood of new wind farms in our region because new wind plants are most productive at lower wind speeds and are vulnerable to damage from the extreme gusts that are common in this area.

The LLG is committed to the principle that any necessary development in this area must respect its unique environmental attributes, agricultural stewardship and wealth of natural capital. If industrial development is deemed necessary, it should be conducted with best practices that protect wildlife habitat and sensitive environments for all Albertans and with minimal impact on sustainable agriculture and world-renowned scenic landscapes. Proposed development must adhere to policy direction contained in the SSRP approved by the Government of Alberta under its land-use framework. Burying transmission lines may be a viable alternative where sensitive areas cannot be avoided by careful route selection as well as where the line unduly affects residents' views.

Please take the opportunity to learn more about the project and express your concerns. More information is available on the AltaLink website: www.altalink.ca/projects/CRRCR.

To learn more about the Livingstone Landowners Group, please visit: www.livingstonelandowners.net

Contact:
Let’s prevent the mess that now obstructs the view from Pincher Creek from happening again along the Cowboy Trail – Hwy 22.

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