Group speaks out against transmission line project

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 21, 2016 7:50 pm

PALMYRA, Mo. -- More than a dozen members of Neighbors United attended Monday's Marion County Commission meeting to reiterate their opposition to the proposed Ameren Mark Twain Transmission Line project.

"It's got to be stopped," Becky O'Brien, who lives west of Palmyra, told commissioners.

O'Brien was one of six people to speak against the proposed 345,000-volt transmission line that would extend about 100 miles from Kirksville to Palmyra before connecting with the Illinois River Transmission Line. The line would extend through portions of Marion, Knox, Shelby, Adair and Schuyler counties.

The fate of the proposed project is in the hands of the Missouri Public Service Commission, which must grant a "certificate of convenience and necessity" for the project to move forward.

The Marion County Commission passed a resolution in November 2014 opposing the project on grounds that it "negatively impacts citizens of Marion County." Commissioners indicated Monday they haven't changed their stance and handed copies of the 2014 resolution to the Neighbors United group.

"That ought to be framed," C.B. Keller, who farms in the Taylor area, said after he saw the resolution.

Keller said he previously gave Ameren permission to install a transmission line across his property, and now he regrets it.

"These big companies like to streamroll you," Keller told commissioners.

He said Ameren several months ago sent a crew onto his farm "pulling concrete trucks with Caterpillars" and compressed the ground so severely that he doubts he'll be able to till the soil.

"That is not going to grow crops for many, many years," he said.

Keller also described the difficulty he encountered trying to maneuver a wide planting machine around a transmission pole in the middle of his farm field. He said he ended up with "big weed patches because you can't go around the pole."

Keller said he doesn't want to see other farmers adversely impacted, so he is speaking out against the Mark Twain project.

"Those fields out there are as dear to us as your yard is to you," he told commissioners. "That's how we make our living. We just don't want them coming through. It's that simple."

Laddie Denish, who lives west of Palmyra, expressed concern that the Public Service Commission will cave in to Ameren and allow the project to proceed.

"They (Ameren) have a lot of political pull in Jeff City," he said. "It's going to be tough to hold them out because they've got a lot of politicians in their pocket now."

Cathy Page, who lives outside Emerson, voiced dismay that project representatives have been coming to her home asking family members to sign papers allowing the company to conduct surveys for future transmission work. She said the unauthorized visitors were told to leave.

"They are very assertive with a project that hasn't yet been approved," Page said.

O'Brien said many of the 400-member Neighbors United group filled out "do not contact" forms but still get phone calls and visits from Ameren representatives.

"They ignore those forms and come on our places, leaving literature and putting flags out," she said.

O'Brien said Ameren officials "won't talk to us about other options" such as putting a transmission line underground or possibly running it along highways or fence rows.

"They're going diagonally through everyone's field," she said. "It's the shortest route for them. It costs them less money."

But that's not good for the farmers who own the land, she said. "Our farm value is going to go down," she said.

Nena Myers of Bethel said many area residents feel they are being pressured to sign easements giving Ameren the right to come onto their property -- in exchange for a one-time fee.

"If you sign this, they can do anything they want to anytime on any part of your land -- forever," she said.