At a public forum on Monday, residents of La Salle County spoke out against a proposed power transmission line that would run through the county.
The forum was at the Mendota High School gymnasium and was moderated by the Illinois Commerce Commission, which is in the process of considering Rock Island Clean Line’s application to build a 3,500-megawatt high voltage direct current power transmission line across Illinois.
Opponents of the Rock Island Clean Line, who outnumbered those in favor, expressed concerns about the possibility of Clean Line Energy, a private company that will construct and operate the line, using eminent domain to seize private land from farmers and other property owners.
Clean Line Energy Executive Vice President Jim Glotfelty said the company has not applied for eminent domain power. He also said they plan to compensate land owners at fair market value and wouldn’t use eminent domain unless all other means of acquiring property were exhausted
Some people at the forum said they weren’t reassured by that promise.
“No amount of compensation can make up for three generations of hopes and dreams for a piece of property,” said Kevin Brown, a third-generation farmer in Mendota.
The Rock Island Clean Line submitted a petition to the ICC to become a public utility and to construct, operate and maintain a 500-mile overhead high voltage direct current transmission line, which would run mostly parallel to U.S. 52.
Though the line has been pitched as a way to bring clean wind energy from Iowa to Illinois and states farther east, opponents expressed concerns it also would be used to transit other forms of energy, including coal and nuclear energy.
But Jeff Zethmayer, an independent energy consultant and Illinois resident, said that in the future, energy coming from Iowa more likely will be from renewable sources. He also said the transmission line will bring energy to 1 million Illinois residents.
Supporters of the Clean Line said the project could create more jobs for locals, and opponents argued that many of those jobs, like the ones during construction of the line, only will be temporary.
But Don Townsend, a construction worker who has been in the business for more than 20 years spoke in favor of the project. He said every job he has had has been temporary, and every new project is an opportunity for workers to receive a paycheck.
Still, others in opposition were concerned the sale of land being used for farming and a possible reduction in the demand for wind energy being produced in Illinois could lead to fewer long-term jobs in the state.
Glotfelty said the company will be paying $7,000 per mile per year to the counties the line runs through for the next 20 years, which he said is revenue that could be used to fund schools and other projects.
But some, such as sixth-generation Mendota farmer Rob Hoge, wondered if a possible decrease in property values for private property along the Clean Line actually would cause an overall decrease in tax revenue.
After the forum, Rock Island Clean Line’s proposal will continue going through an administrative law court and then will go the the ICC for approval by the council and chairman.
The decision made by the ICC could be challenged in an appellate court.
Those wishing to make further comments on the proposal can do so by visiting icc.illinois.gov/docket/comment or calling 1-800-524-0795.
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