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Proposed Q-C area electricity line faces controversy, legal battle

Tensions over a proposed electricity line that would bring wind energy from Iowa to Illinois have made their way to the courtroom.

The Illinois Landowners Alliance (ILA) filed an appeal in Illinois Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa asking that an Illinois Commerce Commission’s approval of Rock Island Clean Line’s plans be overturned. The commission’s unanimous decision granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to build and maintain the line.

The 500-mile electricity line would bring wind energy from northwest Iowa east to cities that require large quantities of power, such as Chicago. Intended to deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind power, the line would run from Iowa through Rock Island, Whiteside, Henry, Bureau, LaSalle and Kendall counties to a $300 million converter station in Grundy County.

The proposed line has encountered resistance from some landowners, who are concerned about the agricultural impact and the threat of eminent domain being used to acquire land without consent of farmers. The ICC says Clean Line has not sought eminent domain authority, although the issue remains a concern for some.

The ILA’s petition requests a review of the ICC’s November order and whether Clean Line intends to utilize eminent domain.

The ILA asserts that the Clean Line’s routing is based on a “flawed study” and that the ICC did not confer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, according to a statement on Monday by protest group Block Rock Island Clean Line (RICL).

The statement alleged that RICL “failed” to prove the proposed line was “necessary” and if “they are capable of financing the proposed construction.”

The Appellate Court will review findings of fact and the ICC’s claims, a process that could take six months or more before the court issues a decision.

Mary Mauch, a LaSalle County landowner and spokesperson for Block RICL, called Clean Line “an empty shell company” that “puts our landowners at great risk.”

Ms. Mauch said, “RICL can’t prove they even have commitments for the necessary funds to construct the project, yet they refuse to give any financial assurances or a decommissioning plan.”

Rock Island Clean Line is part of Clean Line Energy Partners. Amy Kurt, a manager on the Clean Line project, said Monday that financing the line was among topics the ICC spent two years “thoroughly reviewing” before approving the project.

Ms. Kurt said Clean Line will seek regulatory approval in Illinois and Iowa and fund the line through customer contracts with wind farms and customers who receive power from the line.

She said ILA’s petition for review was “procedural,” adding, “we will continue to monitor the case as the process continues.”

Clean Line officials say creation of the line, at a cost of about $2 billion, would offer the potential for upwards of $7 billion dollars of investments in wind turbines and power up to 1.4 million homes in the Midwest.

Construction of the overhead, high-voltage transmission line is estimated to take two years, pending regulatory approvals and negotiations with landowners.

Ms. Kurt said the line will give Illinois residents access to cheap, clean energy and spur jobs in the construction and manufacturing sectors.