|Location Calgary © Photo Credit Peter S Jalkotzy|
BY STEPHEN EWART, CALGARY HERALD JANUARY 14, 2012 4:37 AM
A dimly lit room in the basement of a Radisson Hotel off the Trans-Canada Highway in northeast Calgary is about as far as you can get from the madding - some would say maddening - crowds a province away at hearings for the Northern Gateway pipeline.
In front of a handful of people over three days, a rare discussion occurred on a multibillion energy infrastructure proposal in Alberta.
Unusual was the fact a public meeting took place at all.
In February 2009, the Alberta government eliminated a requirement for public needs assessments, and public hearings, on five major electricity transmission lines by deeming them all "critical infrastructure" for the fastgrowing province.
Overlooking the lack of fanfare, the hearings were a big deal for Premier Alison Redford after coming to power last fall.
Without native dancers or what Ottawa dismisses as "radical" foreign environmentalists or the global media, there is not the same interest in siting power lines as pipelines. Albertans, in particular, should take note.
The price tag for Northern Gateway is $5.5 billion, while the cost of the Keystone XL pipeline is $7 billion. The power lines proposed from Edmonton to Calgary will cost $4 billion, part of a broader $13.5-billion electricity infrastructure build.
Alberta's electricity consumers are on the hook for the entire cost.
In 2003, the Conservative government Redford now leads changed a 50-50 funding deal that applied to power generators and saddled ratepayers with the entire bill for construction of new power lines.
These days, public hearings are big news.