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Grain Belt Express not out of Missouri's legislative woods yet

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Peter Key's picture
Freelance Writer, Editor, Consultant Lansdowne, Pa.

I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Jun 14, 2021 3:31 pm GMT

Opposition to the Grain Belt Express is not only alive and well in Missouri, it’s spreading beyond the state’s borders.

Invenergy won a victory last month when the Missouri legislature adjourned its 2021 session without considering two bills that would have made using eminent domain to acquire land for the controversial transmission project very difficult.

Now, however, four agriculture committee chairs, all of whom are Republicans, are calling on Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session of the legislature to address the state’s eminent domain policy, according to The Center Square.

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One bill they want the legislature to reconsider would require that projects such as the Grain Belt Express be approved by the commissioners of the counties they go through in order for the projects’ developers to be able to use eminent domain to secure right-of-way easements in those counties.

That would require the developers to secure approval of every county they want their projects to go through, which could either prove impossible or force them to consider routes for their projects that are much longer than they would like.

The Grain Belt Express would be a high-voltage, direct current transmission line that would bring up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power roughly 800 miles from western Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to the Land of Lincoln's border with Indiana.

The Missouri Public Service Commission rejected it in 2018 but a year later designated invenergy a public utility, which allowed it to use eminent domain to get easements for the project.

Invenergy also has gotten the Grain Belt Express approved in Kansas but is still considering its options for the project in Illinois, where work is already under way to make those options harder.

An energy bill being considered in Illinois would allow developers of transmission projects such as the Grain Belt Express to be able to use eminent domain to secure land for rights-of-way, reversing a 2017 Illinois Supreme Court decision.

That decision was a victory for Block RICL, a group that opposed the Rock Island Clean Line, which would have shipped wind energy from Iowa 500 miles east. Leaders of that group are now mobilizing their forces to let Illinois lawmakers know they don’t approve of the eminent domain policy the legislature is considering, according to The Mendota Reporter.

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