Missouri regulatory panel rejects request to add power line for multistate wind power project

IndustriesAssociated Press

Missouri utility regulators on Wednesday denied a company's request to construct a high-voltage power line in Missouri that was planned for a multistate wind energy project.

Three of the five members of the state Public Service Commission voted to reject plans for the Grain Belt Express, saying Clean Line Energy Partners failed to prove a need for the project.

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In a report denying the company's request Wednesday, commissioners also questioned whether the project was economically feasible and whether it would have promoted public interests.

Houston-based Clean Line touted the $2.2 billion project as a way to provide low-cost clean energy and jobs to Missouri, but landowners warned it would hurt farming and reduce property values where the power line was planned to be constructed.

Representatives from Clean Line did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The Grain Belt Express would transmit electricity from Dodge City, Kansas, across northern Missouri and Illinois to a substation in Sullivan, Indiana. Some of the electricity would be available for Missouri utilities.

About 530 Missouri landowners are in the path of the proposed line, which would cross the Missouri River south of St. Joseph and cut east across eight mostly rural counties before crossing the Mississippi River south of Hannibal.

The commission received roughly 7,200 public comments about the project as of November, the third-most of any project that's come before the commission, according to the report. Most opposed the Grain Belt Express.

"It shows that they listened to the people and the people's needs," said Katie McKay, treasurer of the Missouri Landowners Alliance, a group that opposed the project.

In the report, commissioners also raised questions about whether the Grain Belt Express is needed to meet state renewable energy standards requiring utilities obtain 15 percent of energy from renewable resources by 2021.

Three of four Missouri public utility companies already are set to meet that mark.

Other concerns included that it likely would cost more than expected.

But others expressed disappointment in the vote.

"Energy policy in the United States is evolving, and that's happening at the state level," said Chairman Robert Kenney, one of the two commissioners who supported the Grain Belt Express. He added that it's necessary for state utility regulators "to be on the leading edge."

The commission's denial of the Grain Belt Express could present a significant challenge for Clean Line because Missouri sits in the middle of the path for the proposed power line.

The director of development for the Grain Belt Express previously said the company was assessing "all existing authorities available to move the Grain Belt Express project forward," including a potential public and private sector partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy through a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Commissioner Daniel Hall also said the Grain Belt Express might be reconsidered if Clean Line resubmits an application and presents more evidence in its favor.

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