ICC decision does not grant authority needed to request eminent domain. We have comments on the decision from Laura Harmon.
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) issued a written order granting start-up company Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) authorizing it to construct a proposed transmission line and transact business as a transmission public utility. Although the ICC found that RICL’s proposed line was not needed to provide adequate, reliable or efficient service to customers, it concludes that the proposed line “will be needful and useful to the public as it will provide an opportunity for the delivery of more renewable energy into Illinois, and will promote the development of an effectively competitive electricity market.”
According to the ICC’s order, RICL cannot install transmission lines on easement property until it has obtained financing for the total cost, projected at $2 billion, of the proposed project. Because the proposed line has been billed as a merchant line project, retail consumers are not supposed to pay for any costs associated with RICL’s project. Per the Commission’s order, If RICL can’t construct the line without passing along any project costs to Illinois consumers, then RICL must file a new proceeding and seek permission from the ICC prior to recovering any costs from consumers.
Under the Public Utilities Act (PUA), issuance of a CPCN gives RICL the right to survey and engage in other pre-siting activities but landowners do not have to grant easements to RICL. The Illinois Farm Bureau® (IFB), the Illinois Landowners Alliance, ComEd and the ICC staff argued that the ICC should not grant RICL authority under Section 8-503 of the PUA directing and authorizing construction of the transmission line. RICL must have authority under Section 8-503 in order to request that the ICC authorize it to exercise eminent domain under the Public Utilities Act. The Commission agreed that it would be premature to grant this authority. RICL will have to request such authority from the ICC in a later proceeding if it cannot obtain voluntary easements from landowners impacted by the transmission line.
According to ICC’s procedural rules, the parties have 30 days to file motions for rehearing. After that, a party may file an appeal in state court. Full details at: http://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/Documents.aspx?no=12-0560.
IFB staff plan to provide information and answer questions about the ICC’s order at a landowner information meeting hosted by county Farm Bureaus in December. In the interim, watch for more information on this and other transmission line and pipeline issues in FarmWeek®, FarmWeekNow.com and listen for updates on your local RFD Radio Network®-affiliated radio station.
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