Environmentalists dressed as spies protest Bill 46

Protesters from Greenpeace added their opposition to a contentious energy bill at the Alberta legislature Thursday.

Costumed protestors from Greenpeace added their opposition to a contentious energy bill at the Alberta legislature Thursday.

Sporting black clothes and dark sunglasses, the small group mocked the spying scandal that rocked the province'sEnergy and Utilities Board this year and said it only raises more questions about how energy projects are approved in the province.

The Conservatives have introduced Bill 46, which proposes splitting the EUB into two new bodies. Landowners opposed to power lines and other projects beingbuilt near their homesfear the bill will restrict public input and hearings.

"When you look at the fact that only three per cent of projects that come before the EUB are turned away, a different, more fair balance needs to be struck for sure," Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema said.

The environmental group backed the landowners' concernsThursday.

"What this bill does is it further strips what little rights landowners actually have. If their land is directly affected, it allows the province to potentially not even allow them to appear at their own hearings, and instead they'd have to make written submissions," Hudema said, standing in front of the legislature.

This spring, landownersopposed toa proposed power line between Edmonton and Calgary discovered the energy regulator had hired private investigators to listen in on their group's phone calls with their lawyers.

The EUB said the investigators were hired for security reasons because it was worried about the safety of its staff. But two probes by the province concluded the EUB overstepped its authority and breached privacy laws.

Opposition to Bill 46 in rural Alberta may signal a problem for the ruling Conservatives, who have enjoyed solid support in rural ridings.

Both Premier Ed Stelmach and the energy minister have hinted in recent weeks the bill may be changed.

Bill 46 was slated to go to second reading Thursday, but the Liberals were planning to introduce a motion to have it pulled.