The company that wants to build a power line for wind-generated energy through several states, including central Illinois, said Monday that host counties and affected landowners would get millions of dollars over 20 years for the project.
The announcement comes as the Illinois Commerce Commission prepares for three public forums in Central Illinois on Clean Line Energy’s proposed Grain Belt Express transmission line later this month.
Houston-based Clean Line Energy’s $2.2 billion project would transmit electricity from Dodge City, Kansas, across northern Missouri and Illinois to a substation in Sullivan, Indiana.
One local official said the payments are not enough to sway his opposition to the project. Shelby County Board Member Joe Woodall said that the payments offered by the company are minuscule compared to the profits Clean Line Energy could reap.
“I will not support it in any way, shape, or form,” Woodall said.
If Clean Line Energy Partners wins approval, it will pay just over $6.4 million to the Shelby County government and about $8.3 million to affected Shelby County landowners over a 20-year period. The company said that the Cumberland County government would get about $3.8 million and affected landowners there would receive about $4.9 million over that period. Christian County would receive about $3.7 and its affected landowners would get a little more than $4.7 million over the same time period.
The payments are compensation for damages during construction, easements, and for the structures built on the landowners’ properties, according to the company.
Even with approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission, the company would need to approach each landowner to get permission to build on their land. The ICC is expected to decide on whether the project gets state approval in November.
Woodall said that if the company gets approval from the ICC later this year, it will have difficulty winning over the support of landowners. He fears that the company would then ask the ICC for permission to use eminent domain to continue, despite the landowners’ refusal to cooperate.
The Shelby County Farm Bureau board also does not support the transmission project.
“It has no purpose to Shelby County residents and only serves the eastern energy hub,” the Farm Bureau board stated in a letter earlier this spring to the Shelby County Board.
The Shelby County Board has formally requested that the Illinois Commerce Commission not give Clean Line Energy the authority to use eminent domain.
The Christian County Farm Bureau board also opposes the project, and the Christian County Board has formally requested the ICC to not to allow the eminent domain in obtaining land for utility easement use
Besides the compensation, Clean Line says the project would employ 1,500 Illinoisans over a three-year period to build the structures.
The structures would transport energy to Illinois from wind turbines in Kansas. And with more energy available in the state, Illinois residents would see a reduction in their electric rates, said Mark Lawlor, the director of development for Clean Line.
“You want projects like this because it makes sure you have the lowest cost of electricity available,” Lawlor said.
The Cumberland County Board has also formally voiced opposition to the project. Three members voted to oppose the company’s project, while the other four members abstained because the project would affect them personally.
Members Bob Marti, who did not vote, and Roy Clapp, who voted to oppose the project, declined to comment Monday. Other members could not be reached.
Lawlor called his company’s project the right move for Illinois. And he thinks the ICC will agree.
“We are confident we can get the approval,” Lawlor said.
ICC Administrative Law Judge Janis VonQualen will preside over the public forums and ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan and Commissioner John Rosales will attend.
During the forums, the public can provide oral and/or written comments. This portion will last for 90 minutes and each speaker will have a 3-minute time limit. After public comments, ICC staff will conduct an informal question and answer session.
The schedule for the forums:
July 28 at 5 p.m. at the Pike/Scott County Farm Bureau office at 1301 East Washington in Pittsfield.
July 29 at 9:30 a.m. in the Pana Junior High Auditorium, 203 W. 8th Street in Pana.
July 29 at 4 p.m. at the Gerald R. Forsythe Performing Arts Center, Marshall Junior High School, 806 N. 6th Street in Marshall.