Missouri panel questions adding multistate wind energy line

Source: By The Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2015

The project has drawn opposition and praise in Central Missouri. Some landowners in Randolph County are among those pushing regulators to reject the Missouri portion of the project, saying they don’t want high-voltage lines crossing their land. Clean Line wants to run lines through southern Randolph County.

 The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Hubbell Power Systems in Centralia and the Columbia City Council support the project.

While supporters such as the Sierra Club have touted the project as bringing more environmentally friendly energy to Missouri, the proposal has drawn criticism from landowners who say it could hurt farming and reduce property values where the power line is constructed.

About 530 Missouri landowners are in the path of the proposed line, which would cross the Missouri River south of St. Joseph and cut east across eight mostly rural counties before crossing the Mississippi River south of Hannibal. The project would include a converter station in Ralls County that would allow the delivery of up to 500 megawatts of electricity to the state’s power grid.

Some commissioners expressed concern Tuesday that it would be a more expensive form of energy. Commissioner Bill Kenney, who said he plans to vote against construction, cast doubts on the economic impact it would have in the state.

“I do not see the benefit to Missourians,” Kenney said.

A majority of members on the Public Service Commission must vote to allow Clean Line to construct the line, and three of five members spoke against it. That means the project likely will not muster approval when it comes up for a final vote, which could occur as early as a scheduled June 11 meeting.

Regulatory agencies in Kansas and Indiana already have approved the Grain Belt Express, and an application for construction in Illinois still is pending.

Mark Lawlor, director of development of the Grain Belt Express, said in a statement that Clean Line was “disappointed” by the commissioners’ discussion, touting the project as a public benefit that could provide “low-cost clean energy, new jobs and revenues to communities across the state.”

Lawlor said Clean Line is waiting to review a formal order, which still must be drafted and voted on by the commission, before deciding the next steps for the project in Missouri. He added that the company is now assessing “all existing authorities available to move the Grain Belt Express project forward,” including a potential public and private sector partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy through a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The commission also Tuesday unanimously approved Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois to construct about seven miles of power line from Palmyra to the state line. The Missouri segment is part of the roughly 385-mile Illinois Rivers Project, planned to stretch across Illinois and to western Indiana.

St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. is the parent company of the Illinois-based transmission company and Ameren Missouri, which supplies electricity to 1.2 million customers.