Legislators seeking to slow review process for Ameren's transmission line project

Posted: Mar. 2, 2013 10:38 pm Updated: Mar. 16, 2013 11:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Two Illinois legislators have introduced legislation that would slow the review process for Ameren's Illinois Rivers Transmission project.

The proposed bill would allow more time for state officials and the public to scrutinize Ameren's plans and determine whether they are really necessary.

Ameren Transmission Co. is seeking regulatory approval for a 380-mile electric transmission line from Missouri to Indiana that would stretch across 19 Illinois counties, including portions of Adams and Pike counties.

According to an Associated Press report, one of the bills was introduced by Republican state Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, who accused the company of seeking to fast-track the project to avoid scrutiny.

"They want it over and done with as quickly as possible before anyone has time to catch their breath and ask the tough questions," Rose told the (Decatur) Herald & Review.

Quincy Mayor John Spring said Saturday that he wouldn't be opposed to seeing the project slowed down so its impact could be thoroughly reviewed.

"I think the project is a good project. But I am a little concerned" about its impact on the local area, Spring told The Quincy Herald-Whig.

The Quincy City Council voted 12-0 in January to oppose the proposed route of the transmission project through the South Quincy Development District. Both the primary and alternative routes would cut through the district, potentially limiting future growth.

Spring and other Quincy leaders would prefer to see the line routed further to the south so there would be less possible impact on economic development within the district. The city has spent millions of dollars in sewer and water upgrades related to the district.

After the City Council voted against the route, Spring sent letters to Ameren and the Illinois Commerce Commission expressing the city's concerns.

"I don't think it would hurt our efforts if it was slowed down a little bit," Spring said. "If a little slower process allows us to get the transmission line moved further south, that would be an advantage to the city and Adams County because of our South Quincy Development District."

As proposed by Ameren, the 345,000-volt line would run between Palmyra, Mo., and Sugar Creek, Ind. It is expected to cost between $890 million and $1.4 billion. If approved by the ICC, construction would likely start in 2015. The project has a completion date of 2019, with a portion completed in 2016.

Ameren officials say the Illinois Rivers Project is meant to improve reliability and market efficiency and to meet increasing electricity demands. It warns the legislation would block power projects.

Rose's legislation would slow the regulatory process by placing new limits on the types of projects that can qualify for an expedited review by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The bill would also prevent construction of transmission lines within 1.5 miles of some public and private lands.

Rose says the project's necessity is at question, and he has heard from constituents concerned about the new power lines.

State Rep. Adam Brown, a Republican from Champaign, has introduced similar legislation in the House and says he has also heard concerns raised by constituents.

Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris said the company opposes the measure, calling it is too restrictive.

"It would basically stop transmission projects in the state of Illinois," Morris said.

Rose's bill would allow only power lines less than five miles long -- far shorter than Ameren's plans call for -- to qualify for expedited review, which has a faster decision deadline of six to eight months.

The legislation is SB 1874 and HB 2240.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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