After 22 days of testimony, the Alberta Energy Utilities Board on Nov. 21, concluded its hearings on a proposed international transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alta.
The EUB has up to 90 days to render its decision whether to approve or deny Montana Alberta Tie Ltd.’s project to build a 300-megawatt transmission line to carry proposed wind energy and other power through the farmlands of northcentral Montana and southern Alberta.
The project would be a private or merchant line, but could exercise eminent domain in Montana and similar condemnation proceedings called expropriation in Alberta, if negotiations fail with the landowners.
MATL company executives and landowners who oppose the line testified at day-long hearings that are available to read on the EUB Web site, www.eub.ca
Meanwhile, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Energy have not yet concluded their permitting process on the MATL line. The agencies continue to review the responses to comments obtained during a public comment period on the line earlier this year.
According to DEQ Major Facility Siting Program Coordinator Tom Ring, his office is preparing a supplement to a joint document issued by the two agencies earlier this year. The update will incorporate responses to comments, farming impacts and the cumulative impact of wind energy projects along MATL’s preferred route. DEQ plans to label the new document a supplement to its earlier environmental impact statement. DOE has chosen to label the document a draft environmental impact statement.
Ring said the issuance of the document has been delayed, in part, because tables to be published in the new document “are not adding up” and because of the project workload DEQ is carrying at this time, but he emphasized in an interview last week that, “we are getting things done. The cumulative impact will be beefed up to include wind farms.”
Once the supplement is published, the comment period is usually 30 days for state documents and 45 days for federal environmental impact statements.
Ring said DEQ would have several public meetings after it announces the document’s release.
Back in Alberta, MATL’s attorney A.L. McLarty during his concluding remarks on Nov. 20, asked the EUB to not defer the release of its decision until the board’s detailed written reasons for decision are available.
“Such an early indication of the Board’s decision will enable MATL to initiate engineering; procurement; and, perhaps most important, alternate dispute resolution with landowners, which discussions are going to be very time sensitive given the short window with which MATL has to work in order to complete this project prior to year-end 2008,” McLarty said.
By Nancy Thornton- Acantha reporter
11 December 2007
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