Drawing the line on power: Help needed for Your Supportive Opinion

Hi Friends:

We, people in Tsawwassen, B.C., Canada need your supportive comments based on your knowledge on power line health hazards.

At present, 138 kV power lines are going through over 150 backyards which are also right-of-way. Most of houses are right against the edge of the easement line resulting in the distances from the lines to the houses less than 30 feet. The EMFs range from 25 - 50 mG in houses.

Now utility company, BCTC (BC Transmission Corporation), is going to upgrade the lines to 230 kV with 5 times more power capacity than that of the present. People fought hard against the project for the last one and half years without success. A couple weeks ago BC Utility Commission (BCUC) concluded as follow " The Commission Panel concludes that EMF concerns do not warrant actions beyond the very low cost measures that BCTC has included in its VITR design". VITR stands for Vancouver Island Transmission Reinforcement. Next day the editorial of the Vancouver major news paper, The Vancouver Sun, supported the BCUC decision. General public also seem to agree with the decision to avoid rate hike.

We are short of local EMF experts to educate general public. Therefore I would like to plea for you to write your opinions or comments on non-thermal EMF effects to The Vancouver Sun.

LETTERS: Include your name, address, daytime number and maximum 200 words. Your Photographs are welcome. E-mail: sunletters@png.canwest.com

ISSUES & IDEAS: Include your name, address, daytime number and maximum 750 words. E-mail: sunopinion@png.canwest.com - No attachment.

Affected people's response to the UBUC decision is in the attachment.

Drawing the line on power

Some Tsawwassen residents don't want 12-storey power towers -- in anybody's back yard Neil Atchison and Cecil Dunn, Special to the Sun Published: Thursday, July 20, 2006 Two weeks ago the B.C. Utilities Commission approved a project to run 12-storey tall high voltage transmission lines directly through the privately owned backyards of 150 homes in suburban Tsawwassen. They will be visible from many parts of Tsawwassen, and will define its skyline. By anybody's measure the twenty-one 120-foot tall steel towers (11 feet in circumference at the base) carrying 1.2 billion watts of electricity is major industrial infrastructure. The lines for this $231 million project to supply new power to Vancouver Island will carry one third more power than the entire output of BC Hydro's proposed Site "C" Dam. Critics of the project -- notably Delta's municipal council and 3,300 local residents who signed a petition -- favour alternative routes that are not in anyone's back yard. They even coined a new catch-phrase to describe their position -- calling themselves NIABY's, a play on the word NIMBY. In proposing alternative routes the Tsawwassen residents never doubted Vancouver Island's need for more power, nor suggested that the project simply be relocated from their own residential backyards to someone else's. They wanted BCUC to look at alternatives that avoided residential properties altogether. Tsawwassen residents proposed several alternative routes avoiding residential properties in Tsawwassen, and costing less than the project's $17 million contingency cost. These proposals would require some work and negotiations to finalize, but the two supported by the locals could be done at a cost to consumers of less than 12 cents extra on their monthly hydro bill. The utilities commission simply dismissed these alternatives out of hand. The roots of this controversy go back to arrangements made in the 1950s when BC Hydro acquired the right to construct a transmission line across private property in what was then farmland. Locating high voltage electric transmission lines across residential back yards may have been "business as usual" 50 years ago. Today, however, it is difficult to imagine any municipal council in British Columbia approving this kind of land use, especially one that the community will have to live with for another 50 years or more. Unfortunately, the Tsawwassen decision is not in the hands of an elected municipal council, but rather an appointed BCUC. The Commission's decision in Tsawwassen reflects an outdated view of urban planning -- a view that is totally out-of-touch with 2006 community values. We are confident that an overwhelming majority of our fellow British Columbians would agree that it is simply bad public policy to build new industrial infrastructure in residential back yards. We believe that British Columbians in 2006 have come to expect that one of the duties of government regulatory bodies is to ensure that public infrastructure decisions do not create benefits for some of its citizens on the backs of others. With its recent decision in Tsawwassen, the BCUC failed to carry out that duty. We believe that government agencies should not be allowed to transfer risks from public infrastructure projects to private citizens. In the case of the transmission lines, the Commission dismissed concerns about risks to the health and property values of private citizens, amongst others. This despite the recently publicized statement of the Canadian Cancer Society that people should not "let children play directly under power lines" for health reasons, and the fact that the 2006 property assessments (a proxy for market value) of those homes in Tsawwassen most directly affected by these lines actually declined, while they increased elsewhere. So, if time proves the Commission wrong, who will pay the price? It will be private citizens. We are confident that the vast majority of British Columbians would agree that it is quite fair -- in an age where people willingly pay extra for "fair coffee" and "blood-free-diamonds" -- to ask consumers to pay an extra two or three cents a week, if that is what it takes to avoid ruining someone else's community and someone else's quality of life. The Tsawwassen residents who mobilized themselves and others in Delta to oppose this decision want the provincial government, the BCUC and the Crown-owned BC Transmission Company (which will build and operate the towers for BC Hydro) to be creative enough to enlarge the power grid without imposing major new industrial infrastructure projects on residential back yards -- anywhere in B.C. Such a solution requires political will, it requires a great deal more imagination than the recent decision, and it requires a commitment by provincial agencies to 2006 standards of land-use planning -- the kinds of standards already in place that guide virtually every municipal government in the province. It is time for provincial agencies charged with making decisions on our behalf to understand that we are not in 1955 any more. Neil Atchison and Cecil Dunn are the co-chairs of the Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines.

Please help us by sending your expert opinions from all of the world. Supportive of course. I thank you in advance.




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Juli 2006

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