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Appeals delay construction of MATL transmission line

Construction of a $140 million transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta, has been delayed at least five months because of appeals in the United States and Canada ...The anticipated start of construction, which was slated for March, is now sometime this fall.

Construction of a $140 million transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta, has been delayed at least five months because of appeals in the United States and Canada, but the developer of the Montana Alberta Tie Line remains upbeat about the project.

The anticipated start of construction, which was slated for March, is now sometime this fall, said Bob Williams, vice president of regulatory affairs for Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Tonbridge Power Inc., which is building the merchant transmission line.

"We continue to be very excited about this project and the benefits it will bring to Montanans and Albertans," Williams said.

About 130 miles of the 214-mile transmission line would cut through Cascade, Teton, Pondera and Glacier counties. It would be the first connection of the electrical grids in Montana and Alberta.

Developers in northcentral Montana are waiting for the line's construction before proceeding with proposed wind farms, but some landowners are objecting to the locations of the line's poles.

MATL's permit from Canada's National Energy Board expires at the end of March so the company is asking for an extension as a result of the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Construction of a $140 million transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta, has been delayed at least five months because of appeals in the United States and Canada, but the developer of the Montana Alberta Tie Line remains upbeat about the project.

The anticipated start of construction, which was slated for March, is now sometime this fall, said Bob Williams, vice president of regulatory affairs for Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Tonbridge Power Inc., which is building the merchant transmission line.

"We continue to be very excited about this project and the benefits it will bring to Montanans and Albertans," Williams said.

About 130 miles of the 214-mile transmission line would cut through Cascade, Teton, Pondera and Glacier counties. It would be the first connection of the electrical grids in Montana and Alberta.

Developers in northcentral Montana are waiting for the line's construction before proceeding with proposed wind farms, but some landowners are objecting to the locations of the line's poles.

MATL's permit from Canada's National Energy Board expires at the end of March so the company is asking for an extension as a result of the construction delay, Williams said.

MATL sought and received a previous extension following delays in receiving permits from Montana agencies and the U.S. Department of Energy. Williams said he is hopeful the second extension will be granted. The permits from the state and the DOE were granted in the fall.

The current postponement of construction was caused, in part, by an appeal by landowners of a construction permit issued by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, Williams said.

The project also has opposition south of the border. In Montana, three landowners are appealing the line's route to the state Board of Environmental Review. Those cases are scheduled to be heard in May.

The Alberta Court of Appeal heard the appeal of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board permit on Jan. 23. That decision is now in the hands of a three-judge panel.

"We have asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to hand down its decision as soon as reasonably possible, but we don't know when that will be," Williams said.

He wouldn't speculate what impact a victory by the landowners would have on the viability of the transmission line.

"We'll deal with whatever decision the court makes at that time," he said.

The landowners disagree with the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board's stance that the route of the line couldn't be moved outside a two-kilometer corridor set by the National Energy Board, said Scott Stenbeck, an attorney for the Alberta landowners.

"There's clear evidence there's a much better route some place else," he said, adding he doesn't expect a decision on the " complicated case" for at least a month or two.

The landowners also want MATL to prove the project is in the public's interest. MATL is a private company in the business of building transmission lines and selling space to the highest bidder. The Montana Alberta Tie Line is its first project, but Williams, who would not reveal potential locations, said other transmission projects are possible.

Wind developer NaturEner joined MATL in arguing that the Alberta permit is valid.

NaturEner has purchased the 300 megawatts of northbound capacity on the line and has said it will construct a 300-megawatt wind farm north of U.S. Highway 2 in the Ethridge, Mont., area if the line is built.

The company already is building a 210-megawatt wind farm, called Glacier Wind Farm, south of Ethridge.

Two other wind developers, Invenergy and Wind Hunter, own the line's 300 megawatts of southbound capacity.


Source: http://www.greatfallstribun...

FEB 28 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19303-appeals-delay-construction-of-matl-transmission-line
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