HANNIBAL – The Missouri Supreme Court will hear the case of a wind energy company that is seeking to build a transmission line across north Missouri on April 3.
The project has stirred resentment in some part of the state, with residents concerned about property rights and other concerns, while others look forward to the possibility of cheaper and cleaner power.
Oral arguments in Grain Belt Express Clean Line v. Missouri Public Service Commission will set in motion what could be the final chapter of a years-long effort for the Texas-based Clean Line Energy to construct and operate a wind power line in four Midwest states from Kansas to Indiana. The line would go through Randolph County, an adjacent county north of Boone County.
Several issues will be discussed by attorneys representing parties both supporting and opposing the project, but the heart of the case revolves around if a Missouri Court of Appeals properly decided the fate of another similar, but unrelated case. The Missouri Public Service Commission used the outcome of that case to deny necessary permits for Grain Belt Express.
Supreme Court judges will address issues like statute interpretation and local control over multi-state power projects.
The court’s decision will likely decide if Grain Belt Express will be built in Missouri.
Grain Belt developers have tried for years to get necessary permits to build in Missouri.
The first time developers applied for necessary permits, the PSC rejected the application because they said the prospective utility failed to prove why it was needed and beneficial in Missouri. In 2016, the project was rejected a second time due to a procedural error.
Commissioners again dismissed the application in 2017 following the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals’ ruling in a case involving the Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois.
Attorneys are not expected to argue whether the Grain Belt is necessary or beneficial in Missouri, as they did when the project first came before the PSC. Instead, arguments will largely center on the application of the Ameren case.
“ATXI is a separate case, involving separate parties, which analyzed a different statutory section,” attorneys for Grain Belt said in documents filed with the Supreme Court.
It remains unclear what the future for the project would be if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the PSC. Earlier this month, an Illinois court reversed a decision by that state’s utility regulatory body, saying the project failed to prove it was a utility by failing to own, operate or manage land or other infrastructure necessary to build the portion of the project in Illinois.
Oral arguments will take place at the Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson on Tuesday. A decision will likely take several weeks.
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