The Illinois Commerce Commission recently approved the hotly contested Rock Island Clean Line high voltage transmission line, a similar, sister project to Grain Belt Express but imposed conditions that likely will be showstoppers for the private company. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the state’s utility regulatory board, recently ruled on the proposed Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) high voltage transmission line and dealt them a severe blow by the conditions placed on it.
The line that would stretch from northwest Iowa to Illinois is one of four similar lines that Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, a fledgling company from Houston, Texas is proposing to build and maintain in the Midwest. The lines are designed to transport electricity generated by wind farms in the Great Plains to the more heavily populated regions mostly in the northeast. The company claims that land based wind generated electricity is less expensive than off shore wind such as that off the Atlantic coast adjacent to the highly populated coastal states their lines would supply.
One of the proposed lines, labeled Grain Belt Express would originate in western Kansas, pass through Missouri and Illinois and connect with the western edge of the east coast’s regional grid in Indiana where it is intended to service those Northeast states. Groups opposed to Grain Belt Express have been following the Rock Island Line closely because it is reasonable to assume that the ICC will rule similarly on the Grain Belt Express Clean Line when the time comes.
Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri President Russ Pisciotta explains, “Although Clean Line is trying their best to spin the ruling as a victory, they were dealt a severe blow by the ICC. While it was in fact approved,there were several insurmountable conditions placed upon them. Some of the most important ones are as follows:
1. RICL was not granted the power of eminent domain. Landowners will not be forced to sell an easement or face condemnation. Without the authority of eminent domain, the company will likely never successfully negotiate with each and every landowner along a direct path. It also will be difficult for the company to obtain financing without eminent domain authority.
2. If RICL wants to obtain that authority, they must re-apply and start the long and expensive process over.
3. RICL must prove that it has 100 percent of its financing before the project can begin. Clean Line admitted in sworn testimony that it has obtained only 2 percent of the total financing necessary to date. 4. RICL is not allowed to obtain financing from ratepayers through FERC and its permit would be revoked if it attempts to obtain any such cost allocation.”
Clean Line Energy Partners face growing opposition with each of its proposals.
There are now active groups in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and South Dakota. Groups share the common goal to prevent the private company from obtaining the power of eminent domain andability to condemn private property for its own profit without proven benefit to pass-through states, or actual need for the power.
The legal hearings at the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) have finished for the Grain Belt Express application for Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN).
Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri spokesperson Jennifer Gatrel states, “We are very encouraged and thankful that the PSC staff recommended that the Commission does not grant the CCN to Grain Belt Express Clean Line. That is a very important because the Commission relies on the expertise of its staff for technical and legal recommendations. The staff recognized that the proposal does not meet the five necessary requirements to be granted the CCN.” One staff member of the PSC testified that out of approximately 7,200 public comments that have been received by the PSC regarding the Grain Belt Express transmission line, all but 65 have been in opposition. In September, the PSC held eight public hearings on the Grain Belt Express proposal which were attended by approximately 2,000 people in opposition.
The Commission could rule on the case by the end of the year.
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