EUB delays permit for transmission line, Legal hurdles must be cleared, says regulator

EUB delays permit for transmission line, Legal hurdles must be cleared, says regulator by Geoffrey Scotton, September 13, 2012, Calgary Herald
“What this is all about today is safeguarding our right to due process. All we want is our day in court,” said Joe Anglin, co-chairman of the Lavesta Area Group of landowners in the Rimbey area, after lawyers for landowners, the EUB and AltaLink LP were able to reach agreement. “The compromise . . . is acceptable,” Anglin added. “The board will engage a process to allow parties to come before it and request a stay,” said EUB lawyer Richard McKee, who told the court an EUB decision on an application by AltaLink LP, completed Aug. 24, to build the line is now unlikely before November. “Work is progressing. It’s a difficult decision with voluminous evidence,” said McKee.

Landowners had been seeking a legal stay of the yet-to-be rendered decision by the EUB on a 500-kilovolt line from west of Edmonton to east of Calgary, but were able to negotiate the same effect as the stay they sought. Their motion was adjourned, but the EUB has committed to ensuring opponents will have a chance to appeal a permit order to the EUB before it takes effect, and if that is unsuccessful, pending the outcome of an Court of Appeal case slated to get underway Nov. 14. “Our fear here today is that if the EUB issues the licence one day, the bulldozers will be rolling the next,” Anglin noted. The agreement, brokered by Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Peter Martin, came ahead of today’s release by Alberta Privacy Commissioner Frank Work of a report into private investigators hired by the EUB to monitor and report on landowners and their activities during EUB hearings. Landowners have alleged the private investigators breached client-lawyer confidentiality by listening in on conference calls and conversations and that their hiring and actions are adequate evidence of a reasonable apprehension of bias against line opponents by the EUB. “Our investigation focused on the collection, use and disclosure of people’s personal information by either the EUB or the private investigators that had been hired by the EUB,” Wayne Wood, a spokesman for Work, said Wednesday. “If we find there has been a contravention, then generally we make recommendations . . . and then we would ask that they implement those recommendations. We don’t have the power to issue fines or any of that kind of thing,” he added.

Wood could not say whether the private investigators involved had been questioned as part of the investigation and noted this latest examination is the second time this year the EUB has been investigated for contravening privacy guidelines. In March, the EUB was cited for posting on its website sensitive personal information — health information, whereabouts of children and when homes would be vacant — about residents in the Drayton Valley area. Work’s report is just the first into the controversial transmission project, which opponents have charged is a $1-billion gift to private industry to allow them to export power on the backs of ratepayers and taxpayers. Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said Wednesday the EUB is clearly in trouble.

“We have very serious concerns,” Taft said. “It is hemorrhaging credibility.”

Next week, Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight is set to release a report by former Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench justice Del Perras, ordered by Premier Ed Stelmach, that also examines the actions of the EUB and its private investigators. A spokesman for Knight said this week the report’s release had been pushed back to give more time for the government to formulate a response. A third investigation by Alberta Ombudsman Gord Button was suspended pending the outcome of court actions. Landowners are also calling for criminal charges. [Emphasis added]

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