MATL – another “private” transmission line

Filed under:News coverage — posted by admin on March 26, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

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Verrrrrry interesting. I found another “private” transmission line a la Outland, well, it found me in the Google Alerts. It’s been brewing for a long time in Montana, I’d heard of the line, but not that it was “private.” Here’s the piece written by their Senator that showed up in the Cut Bank Pioneer Press, in Cut Bank, Montana:

Sen. Jerry Black urges residents to support proposed MATL project

By Senator Jerry Black
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 10:34 AM MDT

I was very pleased and impressed with attendance and comments at the three MATL public hearings in Great Falls, Cut Bank, and Conrad last week conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

I want to congratulate everyone who attended and expressed their sincere opinion and concerns in such a civil and professional manner with respect for those with differing views and issues. Tony Como of Washington, D.C. , director of siting for the Department of Energy, said he has conducted hundreds of these hearings across the U.S. and these are the best he’s seen in terms of courtesy and respect for one another. That says a great deal about peoples’ attitudes and understanding in northern Montana and I was proud how well everyone handled themselves.

What exactly is MATL and why is it so important? MATL is a 203 mile privately owned electric transmission line (230 volt merchant line) proposed to be built between Lethbridge, Alberta and Great Falls, Mont. that will be capable of carrying 600 megawatts of energy, 300 megawatts either north or south. Electric producers, such as wind energy farms, contract with MATL to transport electric power to needed suppliers in or out of Montana. This would be the first interconnecting transmission line between Montana and Alberta and built at no expense to local taxpayers. The risk and investment is by MATL, their private investors, and financial institutions. The bottom line is, northern Montana’s excellent wind resources, rated among the best in North America, cannot be fully developed without an electrical transmission line to carry the power. It’s that simple. The public hearings held last week are part of the process needed to receive various federal and state permits before the line can be constructed.

The MATL project opens the way for up to $1 billion in wind energy projects in our area that would be an enormous economic benefit for north-central Montana, our state, and the nation’s energy supply. The increased tax base, construction jobs, royalty payments from wind generators, and the permanent monitoring and maintenance jobs will provide badly needed tax dollars for local schools, parks and recreation facilities, law enforcement, fire departments, water and sewer improvements, county roads, and ect. Our area has suffered through extended droughts, declining school enrollment, and a loss of tax base far too long. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity. Just maybe the “xxxxxx” wind isn’t so bad after all!

Landowners certainly DO have legitimate concerns and I urge MATL and the participating agencies to address these issues fairly and objectively with utmost respect to everyone involved. Routing of the MATL line is a major issue and must be balanced between the needs of the landowner and MATL. The participating federal and state agencies make the final approval and I doubt if everyone will be 100 percent satisfied, but the routing should be workable for both parties and not a “deal breaker.” The environment impact statement give four different major routing options for the MATL line and many other local options. The DEQ suggested option four as a possible route and I have real concerns regarding this option because it routes the line a considerable distance from possible wind energy development and MATL has estimated it would cost $7 million more to construct and delay completion one year. This doesn’t appear to be a reasonable option.

After an initial rough start, MATL is demonstrating an eager willingness to work affected landowners to address concerns regarding transmission lines and placement of poles that would be potentially disruptive to agriculture operations. This includes the use of monopoles rather than “H” poles wherever it is practical. The CEO of MATL’s parent company, Johan van’t Hof, stated very clearly at a Conrad Chamber luncheon last week that they are committed to be here for many years and want to be a good neighbor and community member. He appears very sincere and has been meeting with various landowners regarding their particular issues and concerns.

Landowners are compensated annually by MATL for each pole they must farm around and a half-mile strip (600 feet on each side of the center line) that crosses their land is not subject to Montana property taxes.

I believe it could well be the largest economic development opportunity since the discovery of oil and the Great Northern Railway was built.

If you did not attend or testify at the public hearings I urge to write or sign a letter of support being circulated in most of our communities for the MATL project. Your comments are extremely important.

All written comments should be mailed by March 31, and submitted to: Tom Ring, Environmental Sciences Specialist, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59602. Or via electronic mail at matl@mt.gov.

If you have any questions please call me at 450-5363 or write me 445 O’haire Blvd., Shelby, MT 59474.

So I started looking around, and what I found was a defunct site, www.matl.ca. History, nada… It looks like they were granted a permit in Canada, but the Montana public hearings have been happening right now, maybe they’re just completed. More to follow, I’m looking. What I’m curious about is whether they claim to be a “wind” line.

To get an idea what they’re up to, check the last issue of the “Megawatt Monitor” posted on that site:

Megawatt Monitor – November 2007

And now their site works just fine, with today’s date on it, so it seems they were updating it or something. More digging…

Here’s their tariff:

MATL Tariff

Here’s the FERC Order:

MATL – FERC Order July 20, 2006

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace