Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act. For those who don’t know, this bill outlines certain electricity generators and transmission lines in the province and designates them as “critical transmission infrastructure.”
A critical infrastructure designation means that the regulatory body that approves and denies certain projects, in this case, power lines, cannot refuse approval of a transmission line because, in the board’s opinion, it does not meet the needs of Alberta nor is not in the public interest. This is almost verbatim from the text of the actual bill. It is the lack of public input and the inability of the regulatory body to act in the true public interest that makes Bill 50 such a hot topic.
Currently there are plans from the Government of Alberta to upgrade the provincial electrical infrastructure. Bill 50 outlines some of the projects being developed and will cover future “critical infrastructure’ upgrades as well. The approval of a transmission line involves numerous factors and involves input from many ‘interested parties.’ The public input into this is essential because it is ultimately the general public who will have power lines on or near their land or business. According to many sources, it will be the consumers of the electricity (residences, business, industry) that will absorb the costs from this infrastructure upgrade. Whether the infrastructure upgrade is really needed or is being done in the best manner, and regardless of how much rates may increase, it is the government of Alberta’s lack of recognition for public input into their own infrastructure that is of concern in this bill.
Even for those who are not aware of the issues, the regulatory board that is supposed to act on their behalf, the Alberta Utilities Commission cannot deem a project ‘not in the public interest.’ This is a flawed piece of legislation that will cause a lack of transparency in the government that is supposed to act in the public’s interest.
The Legislative Assembly of Alberta resumes on Oct. 26. The bill has not yet been passed and there is still enough time to let your MLA, the premier and the minister of energy know that the citizens of Alberta have a right to say what happens in their province.
Humphrey Banack, president
Wild Rose Agricultural Producers