Clean Line Energy has withdrawn pending applications in Iowa for approval of its planned project that runs through several counties in Iowa and Illinois.
The project route was to begin in Iowa’s O’Brien County, enter Illinois between Cordova and Port Byron, continue through Whiteside County just southwest of Erie, through the entire north edge of Bureau County, and end in Grundy County.
The company said Dec. 22 that its petitions for approval of its Rock Island Clean Line electric transmission project with the Iowa Utilities Board will be rescinded until pending legal proceedings in Illinois are resolved.
The Houston-based company’s efforts to get the infrastructure project approved in Illinois have been a roller-coaster ride. An application to build the power line was unanimously approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in 2014, but an Aug. 10 appellate court ruling reversed that decision.
The company then appealed the reversal that was based on the argument that the project doesn’t meet the requirements of a public utility under the Illinois Public Utilities Act, thus ruling out regulatory approval and the use of eminent domain.
The energy company has faced 4 years of fierce legal opposition led by the Illinois Landowners Alliance, the Illinois Farm Bureau, and ComEd.
The Illinois Supreme Court told Clean Line on Nov. 23 it had decided to review the appellate court’s ruling. Clean Line said it expects a ruling as soon as mid-2017, and then it will revisit the approval process in Iowa.
“The Rock Island Clean Line’s delayed development timeline and upcoming deadlines associated with the Iowa Utilities Board’s procedural schedule led to this decision to withdraw the applications,” Clean Line stated in a news release.
The company said it is moving “full-steam ahead” with its other transmission projects, including the Plains & Eastern Clean Line, the nation’s largest clean energy infrastructure project. That line connects electric resources in the Oklahoma Panhandle with Arkansas and several other Southeast states.
“Projects backed by private investment like the Rock Island Clean Line address our country’s continued demand for electric infrastructure,” said Hans Detweiler, vice president at Clean Line Energy.
While the company said it is not wavering in its commitment to the project, opponents saw the withdrawal of applications in Iowa as a huge win for landowners fearing eminent domain.
Block RICL, an organization formed in 2012 to kill the project, said the company’s decision to halt the process in Iowa is good news for Illinois landowners. The group, on its Twitter page, said the court ruling in Illinois has implications that go far beyond this proposed project.
“We still have the Illinois Supreme Court battle, which transcends whether or not RICL is ever built. It’s determining the interpretation of a law that could have a major impact on all of us if private, start-up projects, such as transmission, pipeline or rail projects, can expect the power of eminent domain.”
Detweiler said the Rock Island Clean Line would bring an estimated $7 billion investment in new wind farms, and save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs.
Go to rockislandcleanline.com for more information about the proposed Rock Island Clean Line electric transmission project.
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