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Transmission line faces court challenge

The Illinois Commerce Commission’s ruling on the Illinois portion of a controversial high-voltage overhead energy transmission line is being challenged in appeals court.

In November, the ICC granted a certificate of public convenience to Rock Island Clean Line, which could carry 3,500 megawatts of energy from wind power and other sources.

That ruling has been appealed by the Illinois Landowners Alliance, which represents property owners along the proposed route for the transmission line.

“Too many aspects of the ICC’s final order put landowner rights, livelihoods and investments at risk. Whatever the outcome of RICL, it will set case law and precedent for future private companies hoping to grab rights to our private property,” said ILA board member Curt Jacobs in a prepared statement.

Amy Kurt, manager for Clean Line Energy, said an appeal is a normal part of the process when a project has opposition.

“It certainly happens frequently that parties appeal ICC decisions,” she said. “It’s a normal course of action if they don’t like the decision so it does not come as enormous surprise.”

Commonwealth Edison also filed an appeal to the ICC’s ruling.

The ICC’s approval did not include eminent domain power for RICL. At this point, RICL would need to purchase land for the project voluntarily. The company would have to seek additional approval from the ICC if it wants to use eminent domain to force landowners to sell their property.

The ruling also indicated that RICL must secure funds to cover the total cost of the project before construction can begin.

But Mary Mauch, spokesperson for Block RICL, a group in opposition to the project, is concerned the ruling doesn’t go far enough to protect landowners.

“It’s unclear about what the protections are and if they are true protections or just a nod without a real solution,” she said.

Mauch added that she is concerned that the project’s approval could create precedent for other private companies that wish to construct similar projects.

“We want to pursue every avenue so a precedent doesn’t get set,” she said.

The petitions, which were filed in the Third District Court of Appeals in Ottawa, asks for a review of the ICC’s November ruling and its denial for rehearing requests in January.

“We are very pleased the ICC unanimously approved the project and denied the applications for rehearing,” Kurt said.

A ruling from the appeals court could take as long as six to nine months or longer.

If approved, only a portion of the 500-mile transmission line will be in La Salle County. It will be used to send energy from wind and other sources from Northwest Iowa to a converter station in Grundy County. From there, some of the energy will be sent to points farther east.