PITTSFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Commerce Commission is considering requests to rehear its order granting Grain Belt Express Clean Line a certificate of public convenience and necessity.
Requests filed last week by landowners and Illinois Farm Bureau raise objections to the Nov. 12 ruling which provided regulatory approval for the 780-mile high voltage electric transmission line that would stretch from Kansas to Indiana.
“The reason, again, that we’re doing this is we strongly do not agree Clean Line has any right to file under the expedited review process,” Pike County Farm Bureau Executive Director Blake Roderick said.
Grain Belt sought the ICC’s approval under a section of state law which allows public utilities to seek approval to build new transmission line projects on an expedited basis.
“They are not a utility,” Roderick said. “That right is reserved for utilities in Illinois.”
Farm Bureau, in its request, also argued the project does not promote development of an effectively competitive electricity market and is not least cost, and the Landowners Alliance said Grain Belt’s permit “would create an immediate cloud and deprivation of property rights” for landowners along the transmission line’s route.
Grain Belt also filed a rehearing request to clarify the ICC’s order. The company wants the ICC to revise its order to include that the project is necessary to provide adequate, reliable and efficient service to customers and to provide a more accurate description of the project.
The ICC has 20 days to consider the requests, according to Block Grain Belt Express, a grassroots group opposing the project in Missouri, and if a rehearing is not granted, the parties may appeal the ICC’s decision to the Illinois Appellate Court. The requests should be on the agenda for the commission’s meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Chicago.
Filing the rehearing request is another step to “exhaust all administrative procedures” before going to court over the project, Roderick said.
The 4,000-megawatt line is expected to cross the Mississippi River and into Illinois west of New Canton, then continue east to the Illinois/Indiana line and across the Wabash River to Sullivan, Ind. About 206.3 miles of the line will be in Illinois on a route through Pike, Scott, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Cumberland and Clark counties.
Grain Belt’s schedule calls for construction to begin in 2017, with completion and electricity transmission expected in 2019. Kansas and Indiana also have provided regulatory approval for the project, but Missouri’s Public Service Commission rejected the project in July.
ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan and Commissioners Sherina Maye Edwards and John Rosales voted in favor of the line, with Commissioners Ann McCabe and Miguel del Valle opposing it.
Sheahan and Rosales attended a public forum sponsored by the ICC in July in Pittsfield. Thirty-nine people spoke during the forum, with 15 emphasizing the high-paying jobs tied to building the line and 24 – including farmers, landowners and a cancer survivor – offering emotion-filled comments about how the project would negatively impact their lives.
“I have no confidence that the three commissioners who gave this authority to Grain Belt will change their mind, but I do think that once this ends up in the courts under appeal that they’ll stand with us,” Roderick said. “The law’s fairly clear.”
Even if the ICC’s ruling is overturned, Grain Belt still can seek regulatory approval to bring the project through Illinois.
“They have to reapply under the standard method,” Roderick said. “That gives landowners more time.”
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