Armed with a growing list of endorsements and agreements intended to show their wind power transmission line project will benefit Missouri taxpayers and utility customers, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line is gearing up for a second attempt to gain regulatory approval in the state.
Meanwhile, the Block Grain Belt Express grass-roots organization that powered the effort that led to the project’s rejection last summer is ready for another battle. The transmission line would bisect several north-central Missouri counties, including southern Randolph County.
Regulatory agencies in Kansas, Illinois and Indiana have approved the plan for a transmission line across their states — carrying wind-generated power from Kansas to the East Coast — but Missouri’s Public Service Commission denied Houston-based Clean Line a certificate of convenience and necessity last July on grounds the line would not benefit the state’s consumers and landowners. Attempts to have the commission reconsider the ruling failed in August, and it closed the case in October.
Mark Lawlor, director of development with Clean Line, said Monday the company has been “actively developing the project” and intends to refile its application with the commission “in the coming weeks.”
“We’re positioning ourselves to go back to the PSC,” he said. “Hopefully with a better result this time.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry endorsed the Grain Belt project on Monday, citing a bevy of potential economic benefits the transmission line project would offer the state.
The organization urged the commission to approve the project when it is refiled.
Earlier this month, a group of 67 Missouri municipal utilities agreed to purchase long-term transmission service on the Grain Belt Express.
The agreement is expected to save customers at least $10 million annually in utility rates, according to an analysis performed by the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission.
“The Missouri Chamber recognizes the positive economic impact that will result from the Grain Belt Express, and urges Missouri regulators to approve this project,” Daniel Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri chamber, said in a news release.
Mehan said the company’s projected $500 million investment in Missouri “will boost our state’s economy and make the state more competitive when attracting new businesses here.”
General Cable in Sedalia, Hubbell Power Systems in Centralia and ABB in Jefferson City have agreed to build components for the Grain Belt Express project at their facilities throughout the state.
Clean Line’s 4,000-megawatt, direct-current line would ferry wind energy from Kansas to markets on the East Coast. Clean Line also has proposed building a converter station in Ralls County.
Block Grain Belt Express already has held two public meetings to rally continued opposition to the project. The group cites property issues, health concerns and the veracity of Grain Belt claims about the project’s benefit as reasons for its campaign.
“People are determined — they’re fired up,” said Jennifer Gatrel, spokeswoman for Block Grain Belt Express. The first two of several scheduled public meetings to rally support have raised $18,000.
“It really kind of shows that people are willing to put their money where their mouth is,” Gatrel said, noting the funds are necessary for the group’s legal defense and challenge to the commission. “We previously beat them once and are absolutely committed to doing it again.”