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Alberta Tie project to undergo EIS

Following complaints from farmers, the U.S. Department of Energy is now planning its toughest environmental review of a proposed $120 million power transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta.... Wind farm developers have said the line is critical to construction of their projects. To date, three companies have signed up to use capacity on the line to ship power from wind farms they're planning between Great Falls and the Canadian border.

Following complaints from farmers, the U.S. Department of Energy is now planning its toughest environmental review of a proposed $120 million power transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta.

Opponents of the transmission project applauded the move, while the developer said the switch wasn't unusual.

In March, the DOE and Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued a draft environmental study of the 230-kilovolt line.

But on June 1, after concluding the project might have "a significant effect upon the environment," the DOE announced it would complete an environmental impact statement because the joint review no longer was sufficient.

Complaints from farmers prompted the extra study, Ellen Russell, a senior project manager with the DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability in Washington, D.C. said Monday.

Of the agency's three levels of review, the EIS is the highest.

"The issue of public controversy is enough to cause the DOE to look at this document," she said.

The 203-mile line - about 130 miles in Montana - would connect the Alberta electric grid with NorthWest Energy's transmission system in Montana, allowing up to 300... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Following complaints from farmers, the U.S. Department of Energy is now planning its toughest environmental review of a proposed $120 million power transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta.

Opponents of the transmission project applauded the move, while the developer said the switch wasn't unusual.

In March, the DOE and Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued a draft environmental study of the 230-kilovolt line.

But on June 1, after concluding the project might have "a significant effect upon the environment," the DOE announced it would complete an environmental impact statement because the joint review no longer was sufficient.

Complaints from farmers prompted the extra study, Ellen Russell, a senior project manager with the DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability in Washington, D.C. said Monday.

Of the agency's three levels of review, the EIS is the highest.

"The issue of public controversy is enough to cause the DOE to look at this document," she said.

The 203-mile line - about 130 miles in Montana - would connect the Alberta electric grid with NorthWest Energy's transmission system in Montana, allowing up to 300 megawatts of power to be shipped in each direction.

Wind farm developers have said the line is critical to construction of their projects. To date, three companies have signed up to use capacity on the line to ship power from wind farms they're planning between Great Falls and the Canadian border.

But some farmers who live along the route object to the use of H-frame poles and placing poles diagonally because both make the transmission line more difficult and expensive to maneuver around.

They're calling for the use of single poles and no diagonal crossings.

"It certainly seems to be an opportunity for us to keep telling the same story," Dutton-area farmer Jerry McCrae said of the decision for additional environmental review.

Jim Williams of Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., which is proposing the line, said the decision won't necessarily delay the timeline for the project. He noted that the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board hasn't scheduled public hearings until October.

In April, Canada's National Energy Board, the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Energy, approved a permit for the MATL line. At the end of May, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the company's tariff application, which governs prices to use the transmission line.

"The decision to change to an environmental impact statement is not unusual," Williams said, "and MATL intends to cooperate fully with the [U.S.] Department of Energy's EIS process."

The DOE's notice in the Federal Register says if the joint study does not require significant modifications, the DOE will simply re-issue the joint study with corrections. But if extensive modifications are required, DOE will issue a new document.

MATL needs a so-called "presidential" permit from the DOE to transmit electricity across the international border. From the state, it needs a permit to construct the line.

Reach Tribune Staff Writer Karl Puckett at 791-1471 or 800-438-6600.



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

JUN 19 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/9564-alberta-tie-project-to-undergo-eis
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