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Wind power business granted expedited approval by ICC knocked down by appellate court

MOUNT VERNON – Illinois commerce commissioners improperly expedited an application for a wind power line 203 miles long, Fifth District appellate judges ruled on March 13.

The commissioners had split over the project, with three voting for the developer and two against it.

Owners of Grain Belt Express Clean Line, an Indiana business, proposed the line in April 2015.

They applied for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, and they asked for expedited review.

Illinois law allows expedition of review for public utilities.

The owners stated they would own, control, operate, and manage facilities for transmission of electricity.

Their proposal indicated they would deliver up to 18 million megawatt hours per year on one network and 2.6 million on another.

The line would connect Missouri to Indiana, running from Pike County to Clark County.

The owners stated they held an option on a site for equipment for the project.

In May 2015, landowners and residents along the line moved to dismiss the application.

Illinois Farm Bureau and others later moved to dismiss.

On June 12, 2015, an administrative law judge recommended that the commission grant the motions.

At a commission meeting on June 16, three members rejected that recommendation.

Chairman Brien Sheahan voted to deny the motions, and so did Sherina Edwards and John Rosales.

Ann McCabe and Miguel del Valle dissented.

Later that year, the commission granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Grain Belt Express.

Project opponents appealed to the Fifth District, claiming Grain Belt Express was ineligible for the certificate and the commission lacked authority to grant it.

Grain Belt Express and the commission argued that the definition of public utility clearly applies to new entrants.

The commission argued that the definition “clearly includes the owner of plant, equipment and property which is intended for future public use but has not yet been built.”

Last year, in a similar case, Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Rock Island didn’t qualify for a certificate.

They held that a public utility must own, control, operate or manage a plant, equipment, or property.