- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Rock Island Clean Line halts Iowa effort pending Illinois ruling

Rock Island Clean Line, a proposed 500-mile electric project transmitting wind energy from Iowa turbines into Illinois, has withdrawn its petitions for approval from the Iowa Utilities Board pending the outcome of a challenge before the Illinois Supreme Court.

The withdrawal means that, if RICL wins its case with the Illinois high court and recovers its approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission, the company will need to start the Iowa approval process all over again.

The high-powered transmission lines would run through northern Rock Island, Whiteside and Henry counties.

In an email, Iowa Utilities Board legislative liaison Louis Vander Streek said if RICL decides to resubmit a petition for electric franchise, it would have to begin the process anew – including county informational meetings – pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 478 that sets time limits for the project.

“This would involve starting with informational meetings in each county in which real property or rights would be affected,” Mr. Vander Streek said. “RICL began holding informational meetings for a proposed electric transmission line in August of 2013.”

RICL is a subsidiary of Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, Texas. Company officials say RICL would bring clean energy to Illinois and promote more energy competition, resulting in lower prices.

However, property owners in both states have objected to the prospect of RICL using eminent domain to take possession of property for the route. RICL officials have said they hope to obtain easements from landowners voluntarily, offering compensation. Every county through which RICL passes would receive $7,000 per year per mile for 20 years.

In 2014, the Illinois Commerce Commission granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity. But in August, the state’s Third District Appellate Court overturned that approval in a suit filed by the Illinois Farm Bureau, the llinois Landowners Alliance and others who argued RICL does not qualify as a public utility with the authority to use eminent domain.

“ILA’s members are concerned about the damage to the some of the most productive farms in the country and interference with their operation, health issues, visual pollution, and future limitations on land use, all compounded by the fact that the transmitted electricity is being sent eastward, out of the state,” according to court documents.

The RICL has appealed the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, which earlier this month agreed to hear it. A spokeswoman with the Illinois Supreme Court clerk’s office in Springfield said there is no timeline for a decision on the RICL case.

On Thursday, RICL formally withdrew its 16 petitions – one for each of the Iowa counties the transmission line would traverse.

“Given the regulatory uncertainty in Illinois and the statutory deadline for a decision on the current (Iowa) petitions, Clean Line has elected to file this withdrawal of the franchise petitions rather than requesting a modification” from the board project planners said. “… Clean Line does not deem it to be an efficient utilization of resources to proceed with the filing until after the Illinois Supreme Court issues its decision concerning the Illinois regulatory approval.”