DES MOINES | Applications for energy transmission line projects like the proposed Rock Island Clean Line would be revoked after two years of inaction under a proposal advanced Tuesday by state lawmakers.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who introduced the bill, said it was designed with the Clean Line in mind.
The proposed $2 billion, 500-mile Rock Island Clean Line would transmit electricity generated by Northwest Iowa wind farms across the state into Illinois for use in other states. The project was projected to start in O’Brien County in Northwest Iowa.
The project has not been cleared by state regulators, and the company wishing to build the energy line has secured a limited percentage of voluntary land easements.
The Iowa Utilities Board in November agreed to a request from Clean Line Energy to suspend review of the project while the company determines a path forward.
Kaufmann said that pause places undue stress on landowners who remain uncertain of the project’s future and the potential use of eminent domain to claim land for the project.
“If the project’s going to happen, let’s see progress,” Kaufmann said during a subcommittee hearing on the bill. “I just don’t think it’s right that landowners have to stand in perpetuity without knowing what’s happening to them.”
Clean Line Energy opposes the legislation. The company’s lobbyist did not speak at Tuesday’s hearing, but the company responded to a request for comment with an emailed statement.
“This bill would stop the development of needed new infrastructure and will halt job creation and millions of dollars of direct, private investment in Iowa,” said Beth Conley, with Clean Line Energy.
Multiple labor and construction groups also oppose the bill. They hope the project moves forward with the expectation it will create construction jobs.
“It’s a huge project for our members and their families, and it’s a big opportunity for economic growth,” said Thomas Fey, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council.
An advocacy group that formed to oppose the Clean Line supports the bill and Kaufmann’s call to protect Iowa landowners.
“We know of multiple individuals across Iowa who have 150-foot towers being contemplated to be built within 200 feet of their homes,” said Doug Struyk, a lobbyist for the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance. “To have that hanging over their heads year after year after year … is not something we believe is fair to Iowans.”
Kaufmann plans to give the bill a hearing in the House Oversight Committee, which he chairs.
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