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Grain Belt playing offense as local hearings loom  

Credit:  Eric Dundon, Hannibal Courier-Post managing editor | Hannibal Courier-Post | Nov 29, 2016 | www.hannibal.net ~~

Facing stiff opposition from local landowners and county commissions, the Houston-based company seeking permission to construct and operate a wind energy line through northern Missouri is playing offense as local hearings loom.

Developers of the Grain Belt Express (GBE) are touting soaring economic benefits to Ralls County one week ahead of Missouri Public Service Commission hearings in Monroe City and Hannibal on Dec. 7, where many locals are expected to disavow the project again.

The company behind GBE – Clean Line Energy Partners (CLEP) – estimates the project will contribute more than $39 million to community services in the first year of operation. According to CLEP, tax payments are based on the number of miles the power line in the county and the rates of the various taxing entities.

The company expects about $6 million to go to Ralls County during the potential construction phase and first year of operation, with about $5 million going to landowners along the proposed path. Schools districts would receive the lion’s share of tax revenue, with money going to Ralls County R-II, Hannibal Public School District, Monroe City R-I, Community R-VI, Bowling Green R-I and Van-Far R-I.

“Working with the Missouri Tax Commission, we estimate the schools will receive the majority of the tax dollars, which would be about $790,000 in Ralls County in the first year of the project’s operation alone,” stated Mark Lawlor, Director of Development for the Grain Belt Express. “The Grain Belt Express’ tax payments will make a lasting impact on Ralls County schools and public services for decades to come.”

Other taxing district poised to benefit include the Ralls County Ambulance District, Ralls County Road and Bridge Fund, and other public services.

However enticing the potential financial benefits may appear, many locals flat out reject the project, and have done so since it was first proposed years ago. The Ralls County Commission, once a supporter of the project back in 2012, has rescinded its permission for the project on two instances – in March 2014 and in May 2015.

The stage is set for a business vs. individual showdown at local public hearings.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the project.

“This $39 million infusion into north Missouri in year one will be great for our economy and help reduce electric rates for Missouri families and businesses,” said Dan Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. “Bringing reliable, low-cost power to Missouri will undoubtedly help communities attract and retain businesses and spur economic growth.”

CLEP has also solicited assistance from utilities, who stand to gain from the project with a more diverse and cheaper electricity portfolio.

On the other side, landowners have steadfastly opposed possible use of eminent domain to complete the project. Block Grain Belt Express – an opposition group – has called largely on small landowners to vocalize their opposition to the project.

The Monroe City hearing will take place at noon, Dec. 7, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 424 South Locust.

In Hannibal, the hearing will take place in the Roland Fine Arts Building Theater at Hannibal-LaGrange University at 6 p.m., Dec. 7.

Source:  Eric Dundon, Hannibal Courier-Post managing editor | Hannibal Courier-Post | Nov 29, 2016 | www.hannibal.net

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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