Sturgeon County took the first step at becoming a full intervener on the proposed Heartland Transmission Line Project with a $90,000 investment on Tuesday.
Councillors also unanimously endorsed giving money to a group of community residents who are also planning to speak at public hearings on the proposed power line.
Council’s $90,000 investment will be used to hire a consultant and prepare the county to become a full intervener at the proposed public hearings on the power line that could go ahead this fall.
A group of power companies are proposing to run lines from power stations west of Edmonton to the Industrial Heartland where several proposed heavy-oil upgraders could be built.
After initially proposing four possible routes, the companies have eliminated two, leaving a preferred route and an alternate route.
The preferred route would run south of Edmonton and then north in the transportation utility corridor, alongside the Anthony Henday before going into Sturgeon County and up into the Industrial Heartland.
The alternate route would run along the west side of Edmonton into the county near Calahoo and Villeneuve before heading east to the heartland north of Morinville.
County Commissioner Chris Micek said the $90,000 is the first step, but it doesn’t commit the county to the full cost of intervener status at the hearing.
“We are offering an approach to dealing with the hearing process that would allow us to be involved without precluding a full intervention,” he said. “We could switch to that if time and issues required it.”
The county passed a motion last year to set aside as much as $250,000 for the hearing process, but Micek said council doesn’t necessarily have to spend that.
He said the work being done now would present the county’s case to the Alberta Utilities Commission and leave open the option of the county becoming a full intervener and hiring lawyers for the full hearing.
“The development work that we would do now would serve us well in that stead later on.”
Council also voted to help an outside group, who are also opposed to the alternate route, unanimously approving $7,000 for a Sturgeon County residents coalition led by Colleen Boddez for their pre-hearing efforts.
Coun. Karen Shaw initially worried about funding an outside group because of the precedent it might set.
“Where do we draw the line? We are going on a really slippery slope. I admire the tenacity of what they are doing, but maybe we could offer them services-in-kind instead.”
Coun. Ken McGillis said he thought the money would be well spent in helping the group prepare for what could be a long process.
“I believe it will help that group get a little more traction and get them going.”
McGillis noted the county gave $10,000 in support to a citizen’s group — Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans (RETA) — last year when the issue first sprung up.
“We have already provided money to RETA, this is a home-grown option that is trying to make sure the line is placed along the preferred route.”
Council also voted to extend no further funding to RETA.