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Grain Belt Express foes and friends weigh Missouri options
 
By MATTHEW D. ERNST
Missouri Correspondent
 
 ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Opponents and supporters of the Grain Belt Express, a 750- mile high voltage direct current transmission line that would carry wind energy from western Kansas to Indiana, are vowing to continue efforts in Missouri.

The five-member Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) in August denied a certificate of convenience and necessity to Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, the Texas-based company proposing construction of the line.
 
The PSC determined, from a past Missouri court ruling, that it lacked statutory authority to grant the certificate. That is because Grain Belt Express Clean Line has not obtained a county-road crossing assent from a county where the power line would cross, according to the PSC.

The proposed Grain Belt Express would cross eight Missouri counties. But the decision is not the end of the line for the project. “We will review the order in detail to determine next steps for the project,” said Michael Skelly, Clean Line CEO, after the decision. “We are currently assessing all existing authorities available to move the Grain Belt Express project forward, including but not limited to legal appeals.”

Grain Belt Express did file an appeal on August 25, for a rehearing of its application.

The appeal cited two main reasons that the PSC did not properly interpret the implications of the past Missouri court ruling. Grain Belt Express said its project is substantially different from the past project, which required county-level assent. The appeal also claimed that the denial of the Grain Belt Express application was in violation of the federal Commerce Clause.

The Missouri Landowners Alliance, which is the major opponent to the Grain Belt Express Project, also filed an appeal for a rehearing on August 25. The Alliance cited several reasons for a rehearing, including due process concerns.

The Alliance, in its appeal, also asked that the PSC withdraw a concurring opinion issued the same day as the denial for the certificate necessary for the Grain Line Express. In that opinion, four of five Missouri PSC members indicated they would have approved the Grain Belt  Express application if the prior court opinion had not appeared to require county approval.

Those members said the project appeared to meet the Missouri PSC guidelines for need, company qualifications and improvement to the public interest.
 
That concurrent opinion also raised concerns from Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau president. He is concerned some of the PSC members had “expressed disappointment in a related court ruling requiring consent by all affected counties.

Missouri Farm Bureau will seek to strengthen protections restricting the use of eminent domain power.”

The legal filings continued, as Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC filed an opposition to that appeal on Sept. 5. That  opposition stated that the regulatory board’s denial had been based on the legal reasoning presented by the Alliance.

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Assoc. has also opposed the Grain Belt Express. Mike Deering, MCA executive vice president, said he realizes the issue is ongoing.

“While we are very pleased with the Public Service Commission’s decision, we know this fight isn’t over,” said Deering.

“We will continue working to block the Grain Belt Express from stomping on the rights of Missouri landowners, but the real focus needs to be ensuring that eminent domain is used as a last resort.

It is not to be used by any entrepreneur looking to take private property to line their pockets.”
9/13/2017