Skip to main content

Tag: Roland Milligan

Large tractor trailer leaves cloud of dust while driving on gravel road.

Resident concerns grow amid ongoing pipeline construction

The TC Energy Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) West Path Delivery 2023 Project has been progressing, and with it, the concerns of some MD of Pincher Creek residents.

This project, announced in 2019, seeks to invest $1.2 billion into 119 kilometres of pipeline and associated facilities. This includes current construction in the MD of Pincher Creek, causing some residents to express concern.

MD resident David McIntyre has raised a number of concerns, including traffic-caused dust on North Burmis Road, the condition of the affected waterbody, Rock Creek, and the treatment of local wildlife.

He feels there has been a lack of an opportunity for adequate public involvement in this conversation.

“I’m looking for them to finally listen to the concerns that they said they wanted to hear and that they said they were very receptive to hear two years ago,” McIntyre says.

He and some neighbours highlight concerns over the use of lands, roads and waters.

In an email to Shootin’ the Breeze, Rolf Brinkmann, a resident of North Burmis Road, said he and his wife frequently see heavy traffic from TC Energy, often travelling at high speeds. He noted that when he and his wife are seen working at the front gate, the vehicles slow down.

Brinkmann said high speeds in times of dry weather cause significant dust clouds that are “mitigated only sometimes.”

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Before, he and his wife used to go for walks on the then quiet road. Now, he describes this as impossible because of risks posed by heavy traffic.

“Although we are seniors,” Brinkmann said, “we value our lives and don’t want TC Energy’s contractors to put us at risk.”

Echoing similar concerns, Monica Field wrote an open letter to MD of Pincher Creek CAO Roland Milligan. She highlighted a number of concerns but focused primarily on the impacts of the dust.

“Once airborne, dust is an issue that profoundly impacts my life and enjoyment of living within an area characterized by its magnificent natural beauty,” she wrote.

Not only is the dust an issue for the human inhabitants of the area, but Field’s letter emphasized how dust in hay crops makes bales heavier and causes excessive tooth wear for livestock.

Furthermore, Field said, a lack of adequate dust control measures may limit and sometimes obscure visibility for traffic, potentially translating to deadly situations.

Regarding Field’s letter, Milligan told Shootin’ the Breeze, “We are working with [TC Energy] to make sure that the dust-control issues are mediated.”

 

 

These concerns are not necessarily echoed by all. In an interview with Shootin’ the Breeze, John MacGarva, an MD of Pincher Creek councillor, said the disruptions caused by the project are “certainly nothing abnormal.”

He said he has gone down North Burmis Road a couple of times since the onset of the project, and has seen TC Energy contributing to dust control and the project’s vehicles operating at a “very reasonable speed.”

MacGarva also noted that he’s had personal experience with courteousness when travelling along the road in question and, as a longtime logger, recognized truck drivers’ efforts to slow down when he encountered them.

“You’ve got additional traffic on the road so some may call that disruptive, but it’s nothing above normal,” he added.

Another concern among residents is what many feel is a lack of adequate communication and consultation with residents impacted.

In her letter to Milligan, Field referenced a Zoom meeting in 2021 in which the public was assured of inclusion in consultation meetings.

“We, impressed and thankful for TC Energy’s apparent interest and concern for area residents, were promised regular and meaningful involvement in planning for the upcoming pipeline construction,” she wrote. “But then the bottom fell out. The TC Energy-promised consultation never occurred.”

Brinkmann raised a similar concern regarding local involvement: “TC Energy’s employees should realize that working without residents’ involvement is not the best idea.”

 

 

However, MacGarva has been “very happy with [TC Energy’s] openness.”

“Two representatives came in to council, explained it well and asked us if we had any questions,” he said.

“They were very, very upfront.”

As the representative for the district in which North Burmis Road is located, he said that not too many complaints about it have come to him.

“I think they’ve done a great job, and certainly my number of phone calls indicates that they have,” he said.

He described this project as “a necessary thing as were improving pipelines.”

However, some residents continue to raise concerns about the methods by which the company is going forward.

In an email responding to an inquiry from Shootin’ the Breeze, TC Energy reinforced its commitment to the community and to regulatory requirements.

 

 

“In addition to our consultation on the Lundbreck section that began in 2020, we continue to work with municipalities, stakeholders and rights holders to provide information on the project and have recently provided details on project mitigation measures such as dust control on unpaved surfaces to interested parties,” a company spokesperson said.

“We also work with regulatory agencies and update them on our efforts that ensure regulatory compliance, in addition to participating in any audits or inspection.”

The Canadian Energy Regulator told Shootin’ the Breeze that it’s aware of such concerns and is working to address them, with the primary objective of protecting people and the environment. 

“We have lots of tools and processes in place to make sure things are done properly,” a CER spokesperson said.

According to CER, receiving concerns from citizens, following up and having regular check-ins with the construction project is the usual process for the approval and progression of such projects.

TC Energy shared a document with Shootin the Breeze containing the project’s environmental protection plan, which outlines what some of the expectations for the project would entail.

On dust, the document states that, “Where traffic as a result of the project has the potential to create a hazardous or irritating level of dust to nearby residents, dust control on existing access roads will be achieved through the application of water or calcium chloride (or equivalent).”

Regarding noise, the document says the project site would “take reasonable measures to control construction-related noise near residential areas.”

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

However, some residents, such as David McIntyre, are concerned this may not be the case.

“When you can hear a project miles away and it causes you to jump — it’s noisy,” McIntyre says.

In addition to impacts on the residents from this project, he worries about the impact on the local environment.

“There are people that feel that I have stepped beyond what I should in standing up for the area and its ecological integrity, its beauty,” he says. “What I would say that I am for is that I respect and love the natural integrity that I would say we have left here.”

Having moved to the area long ago, McIntyre says he was initially drawn by its “incredible beauty.”

“I happened to have landed in, and now live in, a place that I feel is threatened,” he says, and he encourages his fellow MD residents to recognize the voice they each have in the future of their community.

 

Large tractor trailer leaves cloud of dust while driving on gravel road.
July 15 photo by David McIntyre, taken on North Burmis Road, depicts the traffic and dust concerns shared by some MD residents since the onset of TC Energy’s pipeline construction in the area.
Mike Peters, a white male with short brown and grey hair, moustache and beard, stands in front of information panels at an Evolugen open house in Pincher Creek,.

Sunrise solar project presented in Pincher Creek

A renewable energy company that plans to build a solar farm in the MD of Pincher Creek hosted community stakeholders Tuesday at an open house in town.

Evolugen, an affiliate of Canadian-based Brookfield Renewable Corp., invited residents within an 800-metre radius of the proposed project one week before the open house on March 28. Company representatives meanwhile had in-person conversations with residents within a 400-metre radius, as per provincial regulations, according to project spokesman Mike Peters.

The proposed Sunrise Solar Project has cleared initial regulatory hurdles at a time when renewable energy projects are proliferating across southwestern Alberta. Evolugen says the project will inject $140 million in local capital spending, but observers, including Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin, have cautioned that unrestrained development for renewables could disrupt local food-security networks.

The project aims to generate enough solar electricity to power the equivalent of about 28,500 homes every year, although Peters said the company intends to sell the energy to a corporate buyer through a power purchasing agreement. Evolugen hopes to deliver the juice by installing more than 210,000 photovoltaic cells on 575 acres of privately owned, cultivated land near Highway 507, northwest of town limits.

The landowners intend to raise sheep on-site if the project goes ahead, Peters said. Tristan Walker, energy project lead with the town and MD, said sheep are suited to solar projects because their constant grazing effectively mows grass without kicking up dust or rocks.

 

Shootin' the Breeze connection to more local stories

 

Make hay while the sun is shining

Southwestern Alberta is ripe for solar energy due to its prevailing clear skies and its long summer days. The Pincher Creek area is relatively flat, allowing for solar farms on industrial scales.

Peters acknowledged that Sunrise would be a fairly big project, but “it’s certainly not the biggest” in the region.

Walker, who has no involvement with Sunrise or Evolugen, broadly concurred.

“In terms of solar farms, [Sunrise would be] a little bit smaller than a lot of projects that have gone through lately,” especially in Vulcan County to the northeast, he said.

Today’s photovoltaic cells generate power year-round, regardless of temperature, and can be adjusted to resist strong winds, Walker and Peters said.

Snow tends to melt off solar panels, especially because they’re designed to absorb light and heat. Photovoltaics inevitably reflect some glare, and Peters said Evolugen was working on a glare mitigation program for the benefit of local residents and motorists on Highway 507.

The company anticipates that Sunrise could generate about $140 million in local spending, the bulk of which would pay for solar panelling and construction costs, Peters said.

Evolugen would pay municipal taxes to the MD, while the farm would likely support two full-time positions post-construction, Peters said. Renewable energy isn’t subject to Alberta’s royalty scheme for non-renewable energy resources owned by the Crown.

 

 

Who allows the Sunrise? 

The RMA has consistently advocated for rural municipalities who say they want to be more involved in land-use decisions for all energy projects within their jurisdiction, prompting a conciliatory response from the Alberta Utilities Commission, which independently regulates the province’s utilities sector.

Food producers generally oppose fragmenting agricultural land for industrial development, but many producers welcome renewable energy projects on their land for the money the projects bring in.

“It’s obvious that utilizing [renewable] sources of energy is going to be an important part of our energy mix going forward,” the RMA’s McLaughlin told Shootin’ the Breeze shortly after a proposed wind farm near the Waterton Biosphere stirred controversy in Cardston County in mid February.

In determining whether or not utility projects are in the public interest, the AUC “makes land use decisions in rural Alberta, [without] considering incompatible land uses, food security, and other issues,” McLaughlin said.

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas signed off on Evolugen’s baseline environmental study late last year, ruling that Sunrise would pose a “low risk” to local wildlife and wildlife habitat, but provincial regulations don’t require assessments of potential disruptions to food security.

 

 

The AUC adjudicates projects on a case-by-case basis and has not yet ruled on the Sunrise farm. The regulator’s decisions “will prevail” when project approvals conflict with decisions by local governments, according to an FAQ page on the AUC’s website.

“The AUC encourages, appreciates and values municipal involvement and input in its regulatory decision-making process around energy projects and encourages their participation through its application rules,” a home-page bulletin states.

The proposed site falls within an urban fringe where the town and MD are obligated to consult each other on proposed developments, as per their intermunicipal development plan bylaws.

In order to be successful, project proponents would need MD council to rezone the Sunrise site for industrial use through a land-use bylaw amendment, according to Roland Milligan, the MD’s chief administrative officer. The amendment and subsequent permitting decisions would need to be referred to a joint IMDP committee, Milligan explained.

Solar energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions, but unmitigated heat absorption through solar panelling can fry topsoil to the point where disturbed land can’t support agriculture.

Evolugen hopes to get AUC approval by year’s end.

Evolugen hasn’t scheduled any follow-up public consultations in Pincher Creek or the MD, but Peters said the company will continue to engage stakeholders.