Grain Belt Express appeals to state supreme court

11 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Thursday, November 02 2017 Nov 2, 2017 Thursday, November 02, 2017 3:00:00 PM CDT November 02, 2017 in News
By: Adam Duxter, KOMU Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - The Grain Belt Express project is not yet off the table for Missouri, even after it was denied by the Public Service Commission. The company appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this week.

The Grain Belt Express would take wind energy from Kansas and bring it to states like Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. 

"We have an abundance of wind energy in rural places like western Kansas, and we have a demand for renewable energy in places like Missouri and other places further east," said Mark Lawlor, vice president of development for Grain Belt Express. 

The energy would travel through above ground power lines that would run laterally across the state.

In August, the Missouri Public Service Commission stopped Grain Belt Express from building in Missouri, because county commissioners refused to approve it.

"To turn 100 years of legal history on its head, they're going to give the county commissions ultimate power over these critical infrastructure projects," Lawlor said.

For many Missouri farmers, the idea of power lines cutting through their land is something they've been against from the start. 

"I think I speak for all landowners when I say we've sacrificed, bought our land, love our land, and don't want to be told we have to give up some of our land," said Marilyn O'Bannon, whose parents' farm north of Centralia would be one of those impacted.

O'Bannon said the company never talked to farmers about using the land.

"No one came to us from the company saying 'hey, we're thinking about this project,' but they were courting government officials as far back as 2011. Since we found out in 2013, we in the eight counties have been working hard to oppose Grain Belt Express," she said. 

The lines would cut diagonally through many Missouri farms, limiting the type of crops farmers could grow, because of a height restriction. Farmers say it would also hurt the property values of their land. 

"It does not go along the right of way like you see most utility poles. It cuts right diagonally through farms. For just my family alone, that would be seven different parcels of land," O'Bannon said.

According to Lawlor, almost everyone is in favor of the project.

"The commission said this project is good for Missourians. It's good for consumers, for taxpayers, for our energy policy etc, but this court case is out there and it ties their hands," Lawlor said.

He hopes the Missouri Supreme Court will overturn the Public Service Commission's decision.

"It's not a question about whether or not this would be good for Missouri. Its clearly demonstrated to be good for consumers and taxpayers. We just have to sort out this legal hangup."

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