ELC Aids Local Residents Concerned about Backyard Transmission Lines

June 2006

The Environmental Law Centre recently finished a project for Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL), a citizens group opposed to the upgrading of high voltage electric lines through their backyards. The British Columbia Transmission Corporation (BCTC) had proposed to dramatically increase the capacity of the current electric lines that cross Tsawwassen neighbourhoods. The project is part of the Vancouver Island Transmission Reinforcement (VITR) project.

The Environmental Law Clinic’s most recent work on this issue consisted of two major work projects – first, collecting affidavits from local homeowners, and second, assisting with TRAHVOL’s case at the British Columbia Utilities Commission hearing.

In September 2005, 15 ELC members took part in a two-day field trip to Tsawwassen to interview local residents, to collect information about their experience of living close to the power lines. Students collected information about the impact that the current lines had upon residents, about the incidence of certain diseases, about the residents’ concerns about the new upgraded lines, and the impact such new lines might have on their lives. This information was consolidated into over 50 affidavits, which formed a significant part of the evidence that TRAHVOL counsel, Joseph Arvay and Mark Underhill, submitted for the BCUC hearing. In addition, former ELC student Nadine Wu’s brief summarizing electromagnetic field (EMF) legislation from jurisdictions around the world was entered into evidence.

The hearing itself began in January 2006. Steve Chapman, an ELC student, assisted TRAHVOL counsel in their research regarding electromagnetic fields (EMF). He did a great deal of the research that was used in preparing the examination and cross-examination of expert witnesses. The Utilities Commission has reserved judgment.

Joe Arvay, one of Canada’s leading lawyers, described ELC student Steve Chapman’s contribution to the citizens’ case:

“I want to tell you how impressed I was with Steve and how helpful he was to me in my prep of the EMF evidence. He helped me understand concepts that were difficult for me; his research was thorough; he was quite tireless in his prep; he was great with the clients and he was there for everything I needed. He deserves an A+ .”