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An electric situation

PRINCETON – There are quite a few unhappy residents in Bureau County Board member Steve Sondgeroth’s end of the county.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Sondgeroth said residents are getting resentful of the proposed Rock Island Clean Line energy project.

“There’s a real effort in the Bureau and LaSalle and Mendota area to try and stop this,” he said. “I do want everybody to know that there are a lot of upset people in the northern part of the Bureau County that really don’t want to see this.”

Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, Texas, is looking at possible routes to carry electricity produced from wind farms in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa though Illinois and eastward. The overhead transmission line would be about 550 miles long and carry up to 3,500 megawatts of electric power.

In June 2012, Clean Line Energy Partners came before the Bureau County Board to give an update on the project. The developers proposed an agreement with Bureau County to pay $7,000 per linear mile per year to Bureau County in lieu of property taxes.

On Monday, the LaSalle County Board agreed to send a resolution to the Illinois Commerce Commission asking for a study of the impact high-voltage power lines would have on residents.

Sondgeroth said one of the problems is that Clean Line Energy Partners is asking for public utility status and the right to get eminent domain. Eminent domain is generally considered to be the right of the state to seize private property without the owner’s permission. Payment is made for the land, which is generally used for issues of the public good.

Sondgeroth said eminent domain is a good power for governmental units, not for private businesses.

“In this situation, it’s a private venture, and that’s what I think people are really getting upset about,” he said. “It’s OK if it’s the public taking the private land for the public good, but in this situation, the resentment’s building when the private venture wants to do that.”

Sondgeroth said the Illinois Commerce Commission is set to rule on the request by Sept. 27.

Sondgeroth said he wasn’t asking the board to take any action yet, but he didn’t know if it was in the best interest of the county to have this transmission line. While the company did offer $7,000 per linear mile to the county for a 20-year period, it would not be paying any real estate taxes.

“I don’t know if that’s really quite enough or not,” he said.

The situation with wind farms, which Sondgeroth said he supports, is completely different. He said wind farms don’t have eminent domain, and they negotiate with individual landlords, who don’t have to accept any offer for their property.

If the Rock Island Clean Line receives public utility status, that wouldn’t be the case.

“They would run the line wherever they want, and eminent domain would give them that right to do that,” he said.

Sondgeroth said he wanted to expand the board members’ awareness of the project and to ask them to find out more about it.

“People are fearful of something jammed down their throat that’s going to come across their fields and farms, slopes or houses, whatever it might be, with little or no input,” he said.