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United States: Intertie clears a final hurdle

A proposed merchant electricity transmission line between the Canadian province of Alberta and the US state of Montana cleared a major hurdle when the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled against a group of 16 landowners fighting its construction. The line will accommodate electricity from 600 MW of wind projects distributed on both sides of the border when complete, with about half the power flowing south and half flowing north.

The landowners had appealed a permit for the line granted by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB), but the court was satisfied the EUB had fully considered the range of "benefits and burdens" associated with construction and operation of the line. The court also supported the EUB decision not to re-examine the location of the line's 345-kilometre corridor, which has been approved by Canada's National Energy Board. The landowners will now try to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, says Scott Stenbeck, a lawyer acting on their behalf.

Bob Williams, vice president of regulatory affairs with Montana Alberta Tie Ltd (MATL), says the path for the line is not clear yet. "We still have more work to do in terms of continuing to work with each individual landowner to negotiate an easement," he says. There are 113 landowners along the line's route in Alberta and another 250 across the border in Montana. The company hopes to complete agreements with all of them in time for a construction start this fall, says Williams.

The court's decision clears the way for MATL's parent company, Toronto's Tonbridge Power, to complete its financing arrangements. It announced closing of a C$5 million share offering in June. Last December it executed a commitment letter with Germany's HSH Nordbank Ag, a wind power lender, for the bank to act as lead arranger for C$99 million in senior credit facilities. It is also hoping to receive funding for the project from the Western Area Power Administration (page 53).

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