State supreme court sends Grain Belt Express case back to commission
JEFFERSON CITY - The Grain Belt Express Clean Line, a proposed energy transmission project through northern Missouri, got new life Tuesday following a ruling by the state's highest court.
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line, if built, would carry energy from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, running through counties including Randolph, Chariton, and Monroe.
The Public Service Commission denied the project permission in 2017, saying the plan needed approval from the counties it cut through before continuing. The commission made this decision based off of an unrelated Missouri Court of Appeals Western District court case decision.
That decision seemed to conflict a Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District Court opinion, saying the commission does not need approval from these counties. The case went to the Missouri Supreme Court to solve the conflict between courts.
In a unanimous decision, the Missouri Supreme Court sent the case involving the Grain Belt Express back to the Public Service Commission.
"The commission erroneously concluded it lawfully could not grant a line certificate to Grain Belt before the company obtained consent from the affected counties," the court said in its ruling. "The case is remanded to the commission to determine whether Grain Belt’s proposed utility project is necessary or convenient for the public service."
Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, said the ruling "means Missourians are closer than ever to benefiting from the clean, affordable energy and economic boost this transformational infrastructure project will deliver to the Show-Me-State."
He added, "We are now turning our efforts to expediting approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission of this critical infrastructure project so that Missouri can realize these benefits as soon as possible."
The Public Service Commission did not respond to the ruling, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.
Other organizations both against and in favor of the transmission line did react to the ruling Tuesday afternoon.
"The Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling misinterprets state law, shifting oversight of power line placement from county governments to the centralized Missouri Public Service Commission," said Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst. "Missouri Farm Bureau members believe this decision makes it dangerously easy for property owners’ land to be taken by eminent domain for merchant transmission lines. Clean Line Energy still must receive approval from the Commission to receive the power of eminent domain for its proposed Grain Belt Express project. We strongly urge the Commissioners to deny this request."
“In the 7-0 vote announced today, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of not only clean energy for the state of Missouri but for a more prosperous economy," said James Owen, Renew Missouri Executive Director. "While this case has lingered in limbo for years as our neighbor states like Iowa and Illinois have passed us by, this puts the Show-Me State back on the map for wind energy by giving municipal utility companies all over the state more options in how they can best serve their customers’ power needs.
“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Duncan Kincheloe, President and General Manager of the MPUA. “Municipal utilities are encouraged by this decision, especially coupled with the earlier findings of the Public Service Commission recognizing the substantial benefit this project brings to electric customers in the state.”