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KCC holds hearing on proposed transmission route

Marshall County Attorney Laura Johnson-McNish attended a Kansas Corporation Commission pre-hearing on Oct. 4 in Topeka on Clean Line Energy Partners’ application for siting a 600-kilovolt transmission line through 19 Kansas counties including Marshall County.

“The Oct. 4 pre-hearing and Oct. 8 hearing were about where is it reasonable and necessary to place this line,” Johnson-McNish said. “I was there on behalf of the county to ask the KCC if it would be more reasonable to bury the lines and to present evidence on that issue.”

The evidence that Johnson-McNish presented to the KCC was not admitted for consideration by the KCC at its final official hearing on Oct. 8 at KCC state offices in Topeka. Clean Line Energy Partners was allowed to admit evidence pertaining to the cost of burying the line.

The three-member KCC panel regulates utilities in Kansas, including the burgeoning wind industry. Clean Line Energy Partners, Houston, is seeking to build transmission from wind farms in southwest Kansas to the east-central United States.

The KCC is considering whether it is reasonable to have Clean Line bury the transmission line and also is evaluating other issues pertaining to the application for siting. The agency’s decision to deny, modify or approve Clean Line’s application is expected Nov. 12.

Local attorney John McNish spoke at the Oct. 4 pre-hearing in Topeka on behalf of the Nemaha-Marshall County Electric Co-op. Local landowners Cynthia Dettke-Thoreson and Nancy Vogelsberg-Busch spoke on their own behalf.

“The invasion of the proposed route is the most disrespectful act towards Kansas farmers that I have known,” Vogelsberg-Busch said. “It is completely unreasonable when taking into consideration 200-foot, 4-legged steel towers with transmission lines carrying 600 kilovolts for over 300 miles through the most productive farmland in Kansas.”

The Marshall County landowners’ efforts to have their testimony at the pre-hearing admitted as evidence at the official KCC hearing was denied by the KCC.

“The KCC refused to admit evidence from the county or property owners that was not pre-filed Aug. 9, 2013,” Johnson-McNish said.

Area landowners testified before the KCC in Seneca at one of four public hearings held in August.

At the Marshall County commissioners’ meeting Monday, the board approved Johnson-McNish’s request to file a brief with the KCC on behalf of the county.

“What the county is concerned about now is how much time was devoted to safety at the hearing,” she said. “The next big push will be to get them to reopen the case and look at safety.”

Johnson-McNish said she was concerned about the lack of evidence on the safety of such a high-voltage transmission line. This will be the first of its kind to extend over multiple counties from Kansas into Illinois.

“Clean Line says there has never been a study on the safety of a line of this voltage,” she said. “If that is the case then maybe it is too early to build this line.”

Clean Line director of development Mark Lawlor said Clean Line plans to build the transmission line in compliance with the National Electric Safety Standard.

“The bottom line is this line will not pose a safety risk to the county or any individuals,” Lawlor said.