Casual Legal: Municipal participation in applications before the AUC
By Breanne Schwanak
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider
Some local governments have seen interest in the development of renewable power generation (i.e., wind, solar, and thermal power plants) grow within their municipality over the past few years. This development is often accompanied by a need for additional transmission infrastructure.
The Alberta Utilities Commission (the “AUC”) is the entity tasked with approving the construction of electric power plant facilities in Alberta, as well as the construction and siting of transmission utility infrastructure. When considering whether to approve such projects, the AUC is required to determine whether the project is in the public interest, having regard to the social, economic, and environmental effects of the project.
The AUC’s rules require applicants seeking to construct a power plant or transmission line to conduct a “participant involvement program” or “PIP”. Applicants must consult with potentially affected persons, including the public and local authorities, such as municipalities. A PIP provides a municipality with an opportunity to voice any concerns with the proposed project, or the siting of electric utility infrastructure, at an early stage and potentially agree on a form of resolution.
Following the completion of the application requirements (including the PIP), the applicant files an application for approval of the project with the AUC. The AUC will generally provide notice of the application to those that may be directly and adversely affected.
If the municipality is unable to resolve its concerns with the project through a PIP, the municipality may participate in the regulatory process before the AUC. A municipality seeking to participate in the regulatory process will need to file a statement of intent to participate (“SIP”), which sets out how the municipality will be affected by the project, as well as what issues the municipality would like the AUC to consider. Where parties filing a SIP have demonstrated they have rights that may be “directly and adversely affected” by the AUC’s decision on the project, the AUC must hold a hearing.
Where decisions of the AUC regarding energy projects conflict with a decision of the local government, the AUC’s decision will prevail. Therefore, if a municipality is concerned with aspects of a project, the municipality should present its concerns to the AUC before approval is granted. As the Commission recently stated, “[m]unicipal involvement in AUC proceedings leads to better, more informed decisions that are in the best interests of both applicants and local communities.”
To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] abmunis.ca (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] abmunis.ca (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.