Missouri Public Service Commission to hold hearing for Grain Belt Express

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Public Service Commission held a hearing on the Grain Belt Express on Tuesday.

In July, the Missouri Supreme Court sent the project back to the commission so it could determine "whether Grain Belt’s proposed utility project is necessary or convenient for the public service."

A document from Grain Belt Express submitted to the Public Service Commission said the transmission line would deliver wind energy from western Kansas, "allowing load-serving entities and buyers in Missouri and elsewhere to be able to purchase this low-cost, renewable energy."

The power would be transported into Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east, according to the document.

The document said the project would bring 500 megawatts of power to Missouri. The remaining 3,500 megawatts would go to the other states

The line across 206 miles of the state would run through the central Missouri counties of Chariton, Randolph and Monroe, according to the proposed route map.

Marilyn O'Bannon, whose parents' farm is located on the proposed route, said she does not feel it is right for the Grain Belt Express "to get the right of eminent domain to take our farmland."

"This isn't going to benefit us in any way," she said. "It is going to hurt agriculture, which is the No. 1 industry in Missouri." 

O'Bannon said landowners along the proposed route have united over the last five years in opposing the project.

"So it's been five years, five years of having a dark cloud hanging over our heads," she said.

Renew Missouri, a nonprofit focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency policy, said it "generally supports" the project because it would bring more renewable energy to the state, according to its executive director.

James Owen said there is no efficient way to deal with energy, but there is "absolutely a public need."

Owen said he sees both sides of the argument, since transmission lines were placed on his family's farm a few years ago.

The document submitted to the commission said the Grain Belt Express would create more than 1,500 jobs in Missouri during the construction phase. It could create as many as 28 permanent jobs in the state, according to the document. 

In total, the project would cost about $2.35 billion. Of that figure, $525 million would be attributed to Missouri, according to the document.