The proposed sale of ALTALink to billionaire Warren Buffett has Rimbey/Rocky Mountain House/Sundre MLA Joe Anglin raising concerns through as many avenues as possible.
Anglin sent out a press release Monday, Sept. 22 stating his opposition of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) denying an oral hearing into the proposed purchase of ALTALink Mid-American Canada Holdings Corporation, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway.
“This is a tremendous injustice to the ratepayers of Alberta. Albertans will be directly impacted by this sale, with increased charges reflected on utility bills,” stated Anglin.
A hearing was held in Calgary Friday, Sept. 19 on the benefits of holding an oral hearing component to the proposed purchase, with Anglin and ATCO Electric advocating oral input but the AUC suggests there is no reason to do that.
Jim Law, external relations director for the AUC said there are few cases of an oral hearing. He said there are two levels of determination with proposed purchases such as this: the federal level and then the provincial level, which in this case would be the AUC.
On the federal level, agencies look at foreign ownership to determine if there are any issues.
“Their job was to examine the potential degree of control and effect of foreign ownership competition. They found the proposed sale acceptable,” said Law.
The AUC is not allowed to examine how federal agencies come to their decision, Law explained, but what they do is examine the sale for negative impact on consumer rates, liability and service quality.
“You look at the viability and health of the company that wants to make the purchase,” explained Law.
He feels if utility bills rise in the future it will not be from this sale.
“Perhaps, as Mr. Anglin stated, our utility bills will rise in the future, but your readers should know that our Job 1 is to ensure that there is no financial harm to ratepayers as a direct result of this sale, should it be approved,” stated Law.
He says there is a large number of transmission builds in several parts of the province, which at some point will have to be paid for.
There have been few oral hearings at the application stage, said Law. He says nobody, including Anglin and ATCO Electric, said they would provide factual evidence that would be part of the hearings. Law said the AUC would not have any information that would need cross-examination.
“Now they (Anglin and ATCO Electric) made the argument to the contrary but we didn’t agree in the ruling,” said Law.
Some of the concerns posed are in areas the AUC has no jurisdiction over, he added. “The majority of them related to foreign ownership and had to be addressed by them.”
He suggests the written process is quite detailed and allows concerned parties to raise their issues and no one has provided evidence to suggest an oral hearing is necessary.
ALTALink owns the transmission lines that reach 80 per cent of the Alberta population but power generation comes from different power companies. ATCO Electric officials were unavailable for comment.