For those of us who dwell in the city, it’s easy to say, ‘bring on the wind power.’
When you’ve got 150-foot towers bringing 4,000 megawatts of electricity by your house, some reluctance is bound to bubble to the surface. You have to feel for those property owners who find themselves in the path of the Grain Belt Express transmission line.
These aren’t NIMBYs or people who automatically oppose green energy. Most of them live close to nature and have an appreciation of the land’s productive value and its inherent beauty.
But it’s their land and they should be able to decide how it’s used. If it’s needed for a public benefit like a highway or utility right of way, then they are entitled to compensation.
You could point to several benefits of Grain Belt, the 780-mile transmission project bringing wind power from Kansas to populations further east.
The customers on the receiving end get plenty of benefits. But who, exactly? Unlike something more tangible like gasoline, it’s hard to see where electricity is directed on the grid, but the fact that Grain Belt will end near Indiana suggests that many of its beneficiaries are there and not here.
Invenergy, the for-profit company building Grain Belt, could benefit nicely when it starts to sell the power.
But 570 or so landowners in north Missouri might not see it that way. They fear reduced property value and diminished quality of rural life for a project that proposed using rural Missouri as an energy superhighway from west to east.
Many of these landowners fought Grain Belt for a decade or more in county commission meetings, in front of the Missouri Public Service Commission and most recently in the Missouri Legislature.
They’ve had some victories and some setbacks, most recently the legislature’s passage of eminent domain reform that’s aimed at future projects but does little to stop Grain Belt. That was always the core goal of these landowners, but it appeared to evaporate in this year’s session.
Perhaps that’s how it goes. These landowners did see some success in their quest, not the least of which was an increase in the amount of power that’s going to be made available for Missouri, thereby making this line a little less of a pass-through phenomenon.
But what must be the most difficult pill to swallow is the legislators’ statements that House Bill 2005, which reforms eminent domain law for future transmission projects, represents one of the success stories of the 2020 session.
Lawmakers should be willing to call it what it is. Perhaps not a sellout, but a difficult compromise that comes at the expense of those landowners who are most affected and led this fight.
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