While the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) Board recently approved a draft power purchase agreement for wind energy, should the Clean Line Energy project ever receive the approval of the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC), that hasn’t stopped opponents from asking the city to reject a final contract.
On Feb. 21, Hannibal native Devi Edmunds, who now lives in Palmyra, appeared before the Hannibal City Council to detail the impact the wind-energy project could have on her parents’ rural Ralls County farm.
Edmunds concluded by saying, “I’m confident that if this issue comes before the Council that you’ll all choose to do the right thing for your neighbors.”
Will the City Council even have the opportunity to say “no” to a wind-energy proposal?
It appears it would, given the fact that in the past the HBPW has brought before the Council power-supply contracts for ratifiction. In 2007, the Council also signed off on the purchase of a 20-megawatt (MW) share in the Prairie State, a coal-fired power plant in southern Illinois that has yet to provide a single watt of energy to Hannibal.
Was the HBPW’s coming before the Council a courtesy or protocol mandated by the city charter?
“That’s an interesting question,” responded City Attorney James Lemon. “Section 11.08 of the charter states, ‘…The Board shall have the power to contract, but all contracts involving the expenditure of more than $10,000 shall be submitted to the Council, and approved by the Council before the same shall be binding upon the city….’
“That’s not the same as requiring the Board to bring the contract before the Council. It just says the city can get out of it if the Council didn’t approve it. Quite frankly that’s already the law in Missouri, even without the Charter provision. However, a party doing business with the Board would be foolish to not insist on an approval by the Council before accepting a contract in excess of $10,000.
“It would be my thought that it (a final contract) would most likely be brought before the Council.”
But would the City Council, which listened to Edmunds’ plea without comment, nix a formal power contract if one were brought before it?
In July 2016, the City Council authorized the HBPW to negotiate with the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) if another opportunity to purchase wind-generated power presented itself. MJMEUC announced a contract with Clean Line Energy Partners (CLEP) for up to 200 MW of DC transmission service in early June 2016.
That led to the Feb. 8 approval by the HBPW Board of the draft power purchase agreement, which was termed a show of support for both MJMEUC and Clean Line Energy as they prepare their testimony to the MPSC seeking its approval to construct the transmission line from wind farms in western Kansas, across Missouri, to the Hannibal area.
The July Council resolution authorizing the HBPW to pursue a wind-energy agreement was approved by a 6-0 vote. But the make up of the Council has changed since that vote. Gone is Kevin Lionberger, who resigned his Council seat one month after the wind energy vote. Lionberger’s successor, Melissa Cogdal, who was appointed to the Council last October, will face a challenge for her Third Ward seat during the April municipal election.
Another Council incumbent, Gordon Ipson, will face two challengers for that Fifth Ward seat.
Unless a contract is brought before the Council ahead of the April 4 election, at least one new Council member is guaranteed. Sixth Ward Councilman Jamie Locke, who was absent on July 19 when the wind-energy resolution was approved, did not seek re-election. Either Steven Meyer or Jeff Veach will hold that seat after the April vote.
It is possible that 43 percent of the Council could be new if (when) a wind-energy pact is submitted to it.
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