Illinois News

Opponents continue appeal of ICC approval of Grain Belt Express

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 8, 2016 10:10 am
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Opponents of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line transmission project are moving forward with an appeal of last year's approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Commissioners voted 3-2 on Nov. 12 to approve a certificate of public convenience and necessity to build, operate and maintain the high-voltage line, which would cross the Mississippi River into Illinois west of New Canton and continue east to the Illinois-Indiana line. The 4,000-megawatt line would carry wind power 780 miles from Dodge City, Kan., to Sullivan, Ind.

Several citizens groups and the Illinois Farm Bureau are collaborating on the appeal and recently filed reply briefs with the Illinois 5th District Appellate Court.

The group argues that the ICC should not have allowed Clean Line Energy to proceed under an expedited process, which is limited to public utilities. It claims the Grain Belt Express is not a public utility and should have had to use a more comprehensive application process to be granted public utility status.

"The Legislature created (the provision) to give public utilities an expedited procedure for urgently needed transmission lines," said Joe Gleespen, spokesman for Concerned Citizens and Property Owners. "It wasn't intended to replace (the more comprehensive provision) with an easier procedure for nonutilities to request eminent domain for massive new transmission projects of questionable need in order to get faster approval. If that were the case, why would any entity ever make application under the longer, more comprehensive section?"

Amy Kurt, a manager with Clean Line Energy, said appeals to ICC decisions are not uncommon and the company hopes for a positive outcome.

"The ICC approved the Grain Belt Express Clean Line after a nine-month process evaluating merits of the project," Kurt said. "After thorough deliberation, the ICC concluded the project is necessary to provide adequate, reliable and efficient service to customers and will promote the development of an effectively competitive electricity market that operates efficiently, is equitable to all customers, and is the least-cost means of satisfying those objectives"

Clean Line Energy said the transmission line would bring more than 1,500 jobs to Illinois while providing $41 million to Illinois landowners and $33 million to local schools and other public services.

Although the company has received approval from Kansas, Illinois and Indiana regulatory bodies, it has not received approval in Missouri.

Last week, Clean Line reapplied to build the power line across the Show-Me State after state regulators rejected it last year.

"Over the last year, we have made tremendous progress in developing the Grain Belt Express so that it will provide power to Missouri municipal utilities across the state, saving millions of dollars each year for Missouri ratepayers," Clean Line Energy President Michael Skelly said in a statement. "We are hopeful that the Missouri Public Service Commission will recognize the many long-term benefits that this project will bring to the Show-Me State."

The project generated recent support from Gov. Jay Nixon, who said the company has agreed to landowner protections.

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