05/15/2012 01:14 EDT | Updated 07/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta county loses fight to force part of transmission line underground

SHERWOOD PARK, Alta. - A county east of Edmonton has lost a fight to force part of a high-voltage power line underground.

The Alberta Utilities Commission has rejected Strathcona County's request that the panel reconsider its approval of the Heartland Transmission Line.

The $610-million line is to run near the city of Sherwood Park and the county wanted at least some of the cables buried.

Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk says she is — quote "strongly disappointed" — that the Heartland line will proceed above ground.

The transmission line has been highly controversial.

It was originally approved under fast-track rules brought in by former premier Ed Stelmach's government, but critics have questioned whether the power is actually needed.

Premier Alison Redford put two other lines on hold for further review after she was chosen as Tory leader last fall.

Legislature opposition parties say the province's push for power is pork-barrel politics. They suggest the government is approving a massive overbuild of power lines at taxpayer expense, then allowing power companies to sell the excess to the United States at a tidy profit.

Strathcona County had argued that the province’s review of the other power lines constituted new evidence that could lead the utilities commission to change its decision.

The county also argued that the commission failed to give proper consideration to the impact of high-voltage overhead transmission lines on residents and businesses.

“I want to assure our residents that we did everything in our power to represent the community’s interests and to bring the environmental and health considerations to the forefront,” Osinchuk said in a release Tuesday.

“We had tremendous support in these efforts from community members, who took a stand and got involved in a long and complex process. Unfortunately, the final decision was not ours, but the AUC’s.”

(CHED, The Canadian Press)