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McCarter opposes eminent domain in wind energy project

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Kyle McCarter is calling on state and federal courts to reject any requests from Clean Line Energy Partners for eminent domain authority regarding the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project.

The project being backed by the Clean Line Energy Partners plans to create transmission lines to deliver wind energy across the Midwest from western Kansas. The project proposes the inclusion of private landowners in Illinois, which has recently raised concerns from advocates of landowners’ rights.

McCarter expressed his concerns about potential eminent domain actions and the involvement of the Illinois Commerce Commission in the projects. He said the ICC should reconsider its decision to give the project a designation as a “public convenience and a necessity,” specifically calling out potential threats to private landowners.

His concerns are included in a Senate resolution McCarter filed Jan. 13.

“The project would not threaten private property regulations. Clean Line would follow all regulations pertaining to public utilities and those addressing private property. Clean Line is seeking easements from landowners where the transmission line will be sited. Landowners will continue to own the land and will be able to continue to farm within these easements,” said Amy Kurt, project manager for Clean Line.

McCarter argued that landowners might feel legal pressure to accept unfair deals, but according to Kurt, the project managers seek to reach fair agreements that work with the landowners.

“Landowners will be paid the fair market value for the land, and will continue to receive payments for the transmission structures, on an annual basis, for as long as those structures exist on their property. Only in instances where we are not able to reach an agreement with the landowner, the Illinois Commerce Commission would have the responsibility to decide whether to involve the authority of eminent domain on a parcel by parcel basis,” said Kurt.

It is this issue of eminent domain that concerns McCarter. He fought a similar battle last year when he supported Senate Bill 1726, which required the ICC to notify landowners in a path of proposed transmission line via registered mail. The bill took effect last summer.

Beyond the issue of eminent domain, McCarter advocates for the expansion of coal when it comes to energy generation over wind energy.

“At a time when Illinois is in desperate need of new revenue, the Grain Belt Express project represents an approximately $700 million infrastructure investment in Illinois. The project will create approximately 1,500 Illinois jobs and contribute about $74 million to landowners and the counties who are hosting the power line. The power that the Grain Belt Express Clean Line will deliver to Illinois will reduce wholesale power prices in Illinois by $750 million in the first five years of the projects operation, bringing benefits to all Illinoisans,” said Kurt.