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Sierra Club endorses Grain Belt project; PSC sets hearings  

Credit:  By Jodie Jackson Jr. | Columbia Tribune | September 16, 2014 | www.columbiatribune.com ~~

The Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed a plan for a high-voltage wind energy transmission line, saying the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project would help move the state away from its reliance on coal.

Jim Turner, executive committee chairman of the Missouri Chapter, said in a news release Monday that the Grain Belt project would transfer 3,500 megawatts of power from wind farms in Kansas and would help move Missouri closer to a voter-mandate that the state’s utilities generate at least 15 percent renewable energy by 2021.

Grain Belt Express is seeking a certificate of convenience and necessity to construct, own, operate and maintain a high-voltage, direct-current transmission line and associated facilities within Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls counties in Missouri as well as an associated converter station in Ralls County.

The total project stretches 750 miles from western Kansas to Indiana. Construction of the transmission line could begin in 2016.

Only 14 percent of the 3,500 megawatts of wind power would be for use in Missouri. The project would deliver 500 megawatts of power to the state through the Ralls County converter station that would connect to the Ameren Missouri system. Project officials say over the course of a year the project would deliver about 2 million megawatt-hours to Missouri, enough to power about 200,000 homes per year.

Some homeowners and farmers along the 286-mile proposed Missouri transmission line route, which would cut through a swath of southern Randolph County, have voiced strong opposition to the plan, citing potential negative effects on property values, health and quality of life.

The Public Service Commission earlier this month held the last of eight public hearings in counties in the path of the proposed transmission line. Commission spokesman Kevin Kelly said Tuesday that the commission has scheduled formal evidentiary hearings on the case for Nov. 10, Nov. 12 to 14 and Nov. 21 in Room 310 of the Governor Office Building, 200 Madison St., in Jefferson City. Public comment is still being accepted in the case.

Kelly said all parties that have filed to intervene in the case must have all briefs filed by Dec. 22. The PSC typically meets every Wednesday, but the dates after the briefs deadline will be Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Kelly said he was unable to pinpoint a time frame for when the commission will make a ruling on the Grain Belt project.

“The commission will try to make a decision as quickly as it can based on a thorough review of the evidence in the case,” he said.

The PSC is responsible for regulating the rates, safety and quality of service of those investor-owned electric, natural gas, water and sewer utilities.

Granting a certificate of need would provide Grain Belt Express, owned by Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, the ability to obtain needed property by eminent domain.

In a letter to the Randolph County Commission, which supports the project, state Rep. John Wright, D-Rocheport, said eminent domain powers should be granted sparingly and questioned whether a line moving power through the state qualified.

“Mid-Missouri citizens have rightly questioned whether Missouri itself has a compelling interest in this project,” Wright wrote.

Source:  By Jodie Jackson Jr. | Columbia Tribune | September 16, 2014 | www.columbiatribune.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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