The Illinois Commerce Commission is reviewing a petition from Rock Island Clean Line LLC (RICL) to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity of the Public Utilities Act as a Transmission Public Utility.
In plain English, this translates if approved, that this private company will be awarded the power of eminent domain to acquire the land to run the power line north of Morris.
Clean Line LLC has sold this venture as a way to bring clean renewable wind energy from western Iowa to the Chicago area and help bring down our energy costs. Yet this project is more about Iowa and the energy markets they want to plug into farther to the east of us, and always has been.
In addition, the company’s name, “Clean Line,” does not completely speak the truth anymore as an exclusive option. On its order issued to the company on May 22, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied Clean Line’s request for preference for energy from renewable resources in its open season.
I believe that this country needs to develop all forms of renewable energy. It ultimately will be a combination of different sources and potentially funded by outside parties. But I want the companies that are involved in these endeavors to be accountable and clear in their motives when they pitch their projects to the people that will live with the infrastructure.
Illinois will get little long-term benefit from this power line. Clean Line is just using us for the land to hold up their towers. Lower prices? Clean Line’s own director of development admitted in the May issue of Crain’s Chicago Business that there needs to be an almost 50-percent increase in wholesale energy prices to make the project economically feasible. So they are promising better rates for electricity – after they go up.
What is most important for us to address now and in the future is: Is it good policy when private investors can be awarded the right to acquire land through the power of eminent domain for their behalf ?
What happens to the towers if the company fails later on? Is this group viable? This is not a public utility company; Rock Island Clean Line is owned by a wealthy family in Houston and a company called Ziff Brothers Investments of New York. Ultimately, who then is in line to benefit the most from it’s fruition?
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