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Bill targeting Clean Line project passes Iowa House  

Credit:  Erin Murphy, Journal Des Moines Bureau | Sioux City Journal | April 5, 2016 | siouxcityjournal.com ~~

DES MOINES | A proposed clean energy transmission line through Iowa would have eight months to resume operations or its application would be rescinded under legislation approved Tuesday in the Iowa House.

The bill would require the state utilities board to reject the petition of any energy transmission line if the project is not approved within three years of the first informational meeting.

The bill was designed with the proposed Rock Island Clean Line in mind, according to the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who said his primary opposition to the project is over the use of eminent domain to create a path for the $2 billion, 500-mile project.

“Whose fairness rights are we going to choose? Property owners or an out-of-state corporation,” Kaufmann said Tuesday during debate on the bill. “Every day I in this body am going to be loyal to the landowners rather than the pocketbooks of the Rock Island Clean Line.”

The Rock Island Clean Line remains in limbo after Clean Line Energy in November asked the Iowa Utilities Board to suspend review of the project while the company determines a path forward.

The project would transmit electricity generated by Northwest Iowa wind farms across the state into Illinois for use in other states. Its proposed path, which would start in O’Brien County in Northwest Iowa, would cross 16 Iowa counties.

The project has not been cleared by state regulators, and Clean Line Energy has secured a limited percentage of voluntary land easements.

Lawmakers opposed to the legislation said they think it is unfair to change the permitting process while a project is under consideration.

“There are many companies that have invested a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of energy into the Clean Line project based on their good-faith understanding of the law as it was as the time that they started their project. Common fairness and basic fairness requires us to honor that,” said Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, who added that she also has concerns with the eminent domain process but supports the proposed Clean Line project.

The legislation next moves to the Senate. Clean Line Energy opposes the legislation.

“This bill would stop the development of needed new infrastructure and will halt the creation of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of direct, private investment in Iowa,” Beth Conley of Clean Line Energy said in an emailed statement. “Passing legislation targeted at halting one project and changing the rules in the middle of the game is a dangerous precedent for the Iowa House to set.”

Source:  Erin Murphy, Journal Des Moines Bureau | Sioux City Journal | April 5, 2016 | siouxcityjournal.com

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