by Leslie Holloway
State regulators are holding hearings in eight Missouri counties this week and next week to hear from citizens regarding the proposed Grain Belt Express project, a high-voltage, direct current transmission line. If it seems like déjà vu, that’s because this is the second time in as many years that Clean Line Energy, the company proposing to build the transmission line, has tried to get it through.
Clean Line Energy wants the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve the power of eminent domain for this project. The commission rejected their request the first time. Clean Line Energy is a consortium of private investors based in Texas. They want to sell electricity generated by Kansas wind farms to East Coast buyers.
With eminent domain power, the company could condemn property in order to force landowners across the state to sign over easements regardless of how landowners’ use of their property would be affected. Condemnation of private property under eminent domain statutes is a drastic measure used only as a last resort to provide necessary services, such as roads, schools and utilities that serve the public. In contrast, the Grain Belt Express project is a private marketing venture.
This year the first American off-shore wind power plants were built off the coast of Rhode Island. More are in the works along the eastern seaboard. Clearly Missouri landowners do not have to give up their rights so East Coast ratepayers can have wind power.
The hearings underway will provide an opportunity for public input as the PSC reviews the project again. Early next year, the review process will continue with attorneys representing proponents and opponents, including Farm Bureau, filing legal briefs and presenting testimony.
Farm Bureau and hundreds of affected landowners are among those urging the commission not to change course.