Grain Belt Express hits dead end with Missouri Public Service Commission

Source: Eric Dundon, Hannibal Courier-Post managing editor • Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another setback for a wind energy project proposed to go through Ralls County has developers evaluating “all available options to move the project forward in Missouri.”

Should the developers of the Grain Belt Express seek to move forward with the multi-state wind line project, it could include filings with the appellate court in Missouri.

In a 3-1 vote, the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) denied a rehearing to reexamine if the multi-state wind-power project should be granted a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN). According to an Aug. 12 order, Clean Line Energy did not demonstrate “sufficient reason to rehear the matter.”

The Aug. 12 order effectively ends the PSC’s involvement with Grain Belt Express.

“The next step is up to Grain Belt,” Gregg Ochoa, PSC spokesman said. “As of now, the PSC is done with this case.”

Ochoa said Grain Belt Express developers could move to the Missouri Court of Appeals, but since the case doesn’t involve rates, it’s a bit of a gray area.

The PSC denied the CCN in a report and order issued July 1 in a 3-2 vote. Without the CCN, Clean Line Energy — the company developing the Grain Belt Express — can not build the transmission line.

Clean Line Energy indicated in a statement that the project is “too important to Missouri, Illinois, and our nation’s energy future, not to pursue.”

The PSC didn’t see it that way, as it cited a lack of demonstrable need for the project in its denial of the CCN.

The project has split affected landowners in the proposed path, with some seeing the project as a necessary step to secure renewable energy in the state and others seeing potentially dangerous consequences with the use of eminent domain.

Differing opinions on the project has translated all the way up to the PSC itself.

Robert Kenney, former PSC Chairman, issued a letter of dissent to the CCN denial the day he stepped down from the commission.

“Missouri does, in fact, need the project Grain Belt Express was proposing; because the project is economically feasible; and because the project is most assuredly in the public interest,” Kenney wrote in one of his final acts on the commission.

Kenney and now-chairman Daniel Hall voted in favor of granting the CCN to Grain Belt Express. Commissioners William Kenney, Scott Rupp and Stephen Stoll voted against it. The same three commissioners also voted in favor of denying the rehearing, while Hall voted to grant a rehearing and new commissioner Maida Coleman abstained.

Upon his departure, Kenney shared strong words about the PSC’s decision.