Grain Belt Express gets approval from Public Service Commission

2 months 5 days 3 hours ago Wednesday, March 20 2019 Mar 20, 2019 Wednesday, March 20, 2019 7:15:00 PM CDT March 20, 2019 in News
By: Jacob Cavaiani, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Public Service Commission granted approval Wednesday to the Grain Belt Express, an electric transmission line that would transport wind energy from western Kansas through Missouri and on to the East Coast.

The Missouri Landowners Alliance and Eastern Missouri Landowners Alliance said they would appeal the commission’s decision. The groups argue Grain Belt Express is not a public utility under Missouri law.

“The Public Service Commission does not have jurisdiction to grant them the certificate of convenience and necessity,” said Paul Agathen, an attorney representing the Missouri Landowners Alliance and other clients.

In late 2018, Chicago-based Invenergy announced it was acquiring the Grain Belt Express project from Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners.

Invenergy spokeswoman Beth Conley said the Public Service Commission still needs to approve Invenergy’s acquisition of the project.

Conley said the Grain Belt Express project still needs regulators’ approval in Kansas and Illinois.

“Today’s order confirms that the Grain Belt Express project is in the public interest and is good for the state, and a good project is made stronger by Invenergy’s participation and we’re excited for what this means,” Conley said.

The commission, which voted 5-0 in favor of the project, said the project will have short-term and long-term benefits to the state. 

"There can be no debate that our energy future will require more diversity in energy resources, particularly renewable resources," the commission said in a written report announcing its decision.

The 780-mile transmission line would go through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The project would make available 500 megawatts of energy for Missouri utilities.

The transmission line would cross 206 miles in Missouri, running through Chariton, Randolph and Monroe counties in central Missouri.

Agathen, the landowners’ attorney, said state statute requires county commissions  to give the Grain Belt Express approval to build equipment along county roads.

Marilyn O’Bannon, a spokeswoman for the Eastern Missouri Landowners Alliance, said the ruling is disappointing.

"We want the best for Missouri. We want the best for our property rights, and this was not a move to ensure that property rights in Missouri are going to be there," sad O'Bannon, whose parents’ Monroe County farmland is on the project’s proposed route map.

Marilyn O'Bannon's husband, Kevin O'Bannon, said while the Grain Belt would create an obstacle for farmers, his primary concern is property rights. 

"This all boils down to property rights and the misuse of eminent domain," he said.

Blake Hurst, the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said the commission should not have granted the Grain Belt's application.

"Private land should not be taken by eminent domain for the sole benefit of private investors," Hurst said in a statement. "This is especially true when their company is not subject to state regulatory oversight with responsibilities to ratepayers."

Conley, the Invenergy spokeswoman, said the company has established good relationships with landowners and community leaders in building its more than 146 worldwide projects and the company will bring “that same level of dedication” to stakeholders in the Grain Belt project.

The Missouri Public Utility Alliance said 39 Missouri cities, including Columbia and Centralia, would benefit from power created through the Grain Belt. 

“We look forward to the opportunity to bring low-cost, clean energy into Missouri to these 39 cities,” said Ewell Lawson, the alliance’s vice president of government affairs and member relations.

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