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Farm Bureau against Clean Line power project

STERLING – The project to build electricity transmission lines across northern Illinois has a powerful opponent.

The Illinois Farm Bureau board recently voted to oppose the project. Farmers object to the lines, arguing they would interfere with center pivot irrigation systems.

In October, Rock Island Clean Line, a subsidiary of Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, submitted its application to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities.

The company proposed preferred and alternate routes for the east-west transmission lines.

Both lines would go 8 miles through the corner of Whiteside County, south of Erie. In Whiteside County, they merge. East of Whiteside County’s portion, they would go through northern Henry and Bureau counties.

The Farm Bureau objects to Clean Line’s request for public utility status. Such a designation would give the company the power of eminent domain, meaning it would have the right to acquire private property for just compensation.

“Clean Line is a private limited liability company. IFB doesn’t feel the company should be granted public utility status or eminent domain authority,” Rae Payne, the group’s senior director of business and regulatory affairs, told FarmWeek, a bureau publication.

If Clean Line gets a permit, the bureau wants the state to require the use of single-pole structures that have a smaller footprint than lattice-type structures.

The group also wants the lines to go along Interstate 80, not diagonally across open farmland.

Clean Line, for its part, has promised to lessen the impact on irrigation systems. The company said it would align the towers with existing ones or put them in the corners of fields, where irrigators don’t reach.

According to the company, the lines will decrease the annual cost of wholesale electricity used to serve Illinois customers by an estimated $320 million in its first year of operation. That justifies its request for public utility status, according to Clean Line.

The company plans to send power from wind farms in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to population centers in Chicago and to the east. The lines would end near Morris, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.

While the Farm Bureau opposes the Clean Line project, it supports the right of landowners to have wind turbines.

“Illinois Farm Bureau supports wind energy generation as a component of the energy portfolio of the U.S.,” the bureau said in a statement last week. “However, we do not take positions to support or oppose individual wind farm projects in Illinois. The decision of whether to site a wind turbine on private land should remain that of the landowner.”