Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Something smells

(Rimbey, AB) Wednesday’s December 9th Calgary Herald reported that Enmax’s CEO, “told of a private meeting where government officials advised utility companies not to question the need for new power lines.”

Ethical controversies have surrounded the excessive proposals to build massive electricity transmission lines across Alberta since before Stelmach took the reins of power. For example, since SNC-Lavalin over-paid $200 million dollars for TransAlta’s transmission lines and created the company now known as AltaLink

* AltaLink, now owned 77% by SNC-Lavalin, was tasked by the AESO to provide critical consultation (proof) to justify the need to build a 500KV transmission line from Edmonton to Calgary. Based on the information provided by AltaLink, AESO submitted an application to the EUB for approval to build a 500KV transmission line, and testified extensively on the relevance and credibility of AltaLink’s evidence. Three years later, it was embarrassingly revealed that AltaLink’s so-called critical report was delivered to the AESO six months after AESO submitted their application. The question of how AESO could testify extensively on the relevance and credibility of AltaLink’s evidence six months before AESO received the evidence has never been answered.
* Early on Alberta Energy intervened and over-ruled an EUB decision that would require generators to share in the costs. Later, transmission regulations were changed to eliminate any requirement to have industry share in the costs of building transmission lines.
* Mr. Kellan Fluckiger, the then Executive Director of the Alberta Department of Energy, testified in support of the 500 KV transmission line. Mr. Fluckiger’s wife at the time was a senior executive vice president with AltaLink, the primary beneficiary of the 500 KV line. In a letter dated June 15, 2006 Fluckiger detailed the Department’s support for AltaLink’s 500KV transmission line. Complaints that the Alberta Energy Utilities Board, (AEUB) under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Energy, could not be viewed or expected to act as an impartial Board when the ministry is testifying on behalf of a project were dismissed.
* AltaLink was awarded a $200 million dollar no-bid contract (guaranteeing SNC-Lavalin, an engineering and construction contract) to build the transmission line from Edmonton to Calgary. The $200 million dollars figure raised suspicions given the fact that SNC-Lavalin originally over-paid $200 million to purchase AltaLink. The project has now ballooned to an estimated $2.2 billion. AltaLink (owned 77% by SNC-Lavalin) will assume ownership upon completion, and the public (load) pays for 100% of the costs to construct the transmission line.
* AESO, as an independent non-profit entity responsible for the safe, reliable and economic planning and operation of the Alberta Interconnected Electric System, applied to the AEUB specifically to assign AltaLink a 500KV line in violation of its mandated objectivity and obligation to consider the "Needs" before any direct assignment. It was later proven that AESO's senior executives had annual bonuses attached to the submission and approval of a 500 KV transmission line that could only benefit AltaLink.
* Former premier Ralph Klein and the former EUB chairman Neil McCrank (McCrank chaired the first AltaLink 500 KV hearings and drafted the original approval) both now work for AltaLink’s law firm.

The allegations from Enmax’s CEO are significant for a number of reasons; however the allegations seem to be mounting in intensity. What is not being disclosed is the fact that Alberta may be at risk of losing approximately 30,000 jobs in the refinery, and pulp and paper mill sectors, if the costs of these mega-transmission lines are downloaded onto industry. How Alberta’s economy will pay for these projects has never been disclosed in a cost benefit analysis.

The argument in support of a regulatory process to transparently evaluate utilities projects is a proven methodology that works in the public interest. The changes to the current legislation should be repealed, and the regulatory system should be re-instated for approving critical infrastructure. Besides, utility board hearings are a great venue to catch government hired spies. It not hard to identify government private investigators, you will find them eating all the donuts.

The Lavesta Area Group is calling for a full and complete independent transparent inquiry into this government’s unethical behaviour relative to the entire regulatory process surrounding the approval of transmission lines, including the most recent allegations.

For more information Contact
Joe Anglin
(403) 843-3279
(403) 963-0521 cell
Leader, Lavesta Area Group

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