A Caldwell County couple is helping circulate a petition that seeks to prevent a wind energy network from crossing the region.
Russell and Julia Pisciotta live near Kidder, Mo., and fear the overhead line will ruin their business.
“It goes directly over our farm,” Mr. Pisciotta said. “The project is totally unnecessary.”
Organizers hope to create a $2 billion Grain Belt Express wind energy network. Their plan is to construct a 700-mile, 3,500-megawatt high-voltage direct current transmission line starting in western Kansas. Clean Line Energy Partners, a private firm which is heading the endeavor, justifies the work as necessary to supply power needed in eastern states. Governors of 11 states have signed letters to U.S. Senate leaders refuting the need for a Midwest power supply, Mr. Pisciotta said.
Opponents believe the system would negatively impact human and animal health, he said, and unfairly employ the power of eminent domain to control land required for the line.
“The more we learn about it, the more we think it’s a bad deal for farmers,” he said.
The Pisciottas are now concentrating their efforts on other Missouri counties along the proposed routes. A separate petition has gained traction among Northeast Kansas residents.
“We’ve been working Caldwell County pretty hard,” Mr. Pisciotta said Monday. “Farmers stand to lose a lot of money.”
The petition’s latest focus covers Buchanan and Clinton counties. An estimated 500 signatures have been collected in Caldwell County alone, with the intent of eventually presenting the petition to the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Pisciotta Farms – which features naturally raised beef, chicken, turkey, and eggs – hopes to use a house as a country inn and undertake other activities.
“We had plans to do more agri-tourism,” Mr. Pisciotta said.
Part of the opposition centers on concerns over Clean Line’s intent to remove numerous trees in the line’s path. Pisciotta Farms’ property is located in a wooded area.
Mark Lawlor, Clean Line’s director of development, said the project doesn’t want to clash with existing residences, businesses and other established features.
“We try to route the line in a way that minimizes impact,” he said. “We like to avoid clearing out as many trees as possible.”
But alternatives to overhead lines should be explored, Mr. Pisciotta said, such as burying the utilities.
“The technology is there,” he said.
Compensation for the land needed for the lines is insufficient, he added. He estimated that property values could potentially decline by as much as 40 to 50 percent.
Neighbors are saying they’d rather move than remain in the shadow of the Grain Belt Express.
“It’s already affecting the real estate market,” he said. For example, Mr. Pisciotta said an elderly couple couldn’t complete a contract for selling their home because of the looming project.
Mr. Lawlor said Clean Line officials will continue pressing their case of economic development and jobs before those unconvinced about the network.
“There’s a lot of folks that are engaged with us. There’s other folks that haven’t engaged with us. … We will respond wherever the issue is needed,” he said.
The company plans to build a converter station at an undetermined location northwest of St. Louis to allow utilities the option of purchasing power from the line. Mr. Lawlor said the conversion will supply electricity at the rate of 4½ cents per kilowatt hour.
The regulatory process involving the Public Service Commission begins in 2014, when Clean Line will apply for public utility status. Proposed routes in Missouri would run south of St. Joseph. A state route plan has been submitted to the Kansas Corporation Commission, with a decision expected by Nov. 12.
Visit www.notowershere.com for more information on the petition.
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