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Enmax boss bashes new power lines

6 September 2009 894 views No Comment

CALGARY — The gloves are off and none too soon.

The boss of Enmax, the power company owned by this city’s taxpayers, warns us of how the provincial government is playing loose with the fear-mongering and that old-fashioned idea we call democracy.

Gary Holden gives us this head’s up as Premier Ed’s folks ram through two huge power lines Enmax says we don’t need. Work on those lines is starting before there’s any debate in the legislature.

It is a plan, expected to add up to $20 billion, forcing each of us to pay $200 or more a year extra and it is justified by telling us the lights will go out otherwise, without showing us the numbers to prove this supposed Apocalypse Now.

Meanwhile, many smart people, including Holden, believe this is really a scheme to have us foot the bill so the big boys can ship electric juice stateside.

“I find it quite offensive and I think the public in Alberta will find it offensive,” says Holden, who met with provincial government types last week and feels the scary talk is just a strategy to get the public frightened enough to play ball.

“There’s lots of time to get it right. There is no threat of brownouts. I don’t believe they’re concerned at all about brownouts. They’ve been sold on the idea Alberta can be a powerhouse selling to California and Las Vegas.”

There’s more. There always is.

At the same time, four Alberta electricity companies — TransCanada Energy, ATCO Power, TransAlta and Capital Power Corp., once owned by Edmonton’s Epcor — are going to court to stop an assessor’s report later this month expected to give a green light to a new Enmax plant designed to provide plenty of power to Calgary without any new north-south lines. Enmax is accused of having an unfair advantage in its dealings with the city of Calgary while Holden says the company has passed all tests on this matter six other times.

Let’s face reality. Enmax is becoming a pain to the competition.

The company is a serious player in the market and is doing its own thing in opposing the new power lines owned by AltaLink and ATCO Electric.

Yes, the same AltaLink with Tory budget guru and former Calgary Health Region chairman David Tuer heading up a board including former Tory finance minister Pat Nelson and top Tory insider Doug Mitchell.

This latest Tory brainwave is going ahead. AltaLink and ATCO are allowed to do preliminary work on the lines, authorized by the province to do so, before a law allowing fast-tracking this deal without a public hearing has been chewed over and voted on by the legislature.

When grilled, Mel Knight, Ed’s energy boss and pal of the premier, sticks to the fear factor script. There will be brownouts. There will be blackouts.

Not scared? He says he has the power to do what’s doing. He does. Mel and his cronies give him the authority to bypass the public and then he has the authority to do it. Nice work if you can get it.

Then again, better than the last time around when the province’s plan didn’t go through after the bad Get Smart episode where private eyes spied on landowners opposing the deal.

Let’s get Enmax’s Holden in here again, a man who says whatever facts the province does manage to muster are “inadequate and misleading.”

He says with Enmax adding to the power supply, Calgary is in great shape and the need to have this discussion of more power won’t have to take place for decades until the city doubles in size and is over two million people. He says the power lines the Tories want will probably be unused for a long time.

The Enmax CEO also, once again, points out the cost to businesses will be many, many, many times more than $200 a year.

The province’s powerplay is no surprise but somebody has to speak up and fast.

“We have a legislative process allowing things to be debated but, just in case they don’t go so well, they have another way,” says Holden, of Ed’s Tories.

“They’re afraid the opposition is going to build. We’re going to go out and make sure people are informed. Hopefully, the political process will work for Albertans.”

It won’t work if Albertans roll over and play dead, only complaining when they look at their power bill and realize the horse is already well out of the barn.

rick.bell@sunmedia.ca

By Rick Bell, Sun Media

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