Sunday, August 20, 2017

Missouri rejects big Midwest power line

On Aug. 16 the Missouri Public Service Commission rejected a proposed 780-mile-long high-voltage power line that would carry electricity from Kansas wind farms through Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, where it would connect to a power grid serving the Eastern U.S.

The case highlights a major roadblock in making renewable energy more mainstream: "Although converting wind and sun into electricity is increasingly affordable, it can be hard to get the regulatory and legal approval needed to transmit the power from remote areas where it's produced to the places where it's most needed," David Lieb reports for the Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal Gazette. "Other large-scale renewable energy projects in the Midwest, South and West also have faced denials or delays in transmission line approvals from federal and state regulators and courts." All the other states along the proposed path had already agreed to allow the Grain Belt Express Line, which would cost $2.3 billion and be one of the nation's longest transmission lines.
High Plains Public Radio map; click on it to enlarge; for state maps click here.
This is the second time in two years the Missouri utility regulators denied a request from Clean Line Energy Partners to build the power line project through the state. The first time, in July 2015, the commission rejected the proposal because they believed it didn't benefit Missouri residents enough and would be burdensome to landowners on whose land the line would be built. Clean Line tried to fix those objections in their revamped proposal, offering more protections to affected landowners and renewable energy deals to dozens of Missouri utilities along the line that serve hundreds of thousands of customers.

Four out of the five commission members said they thought the new proposal was a good idea, but "felt compelled to vote against it because of a recent state appeals court ruling. The judges in that case said utilities must first get the consent of counties to string a power line across roads before state approval can be granted. Clean Line lacks approval from several Missouri counties where its line is opposed by local residents," Lieb reports.

The future of the project is uncertain. "The Houston-based wind energy company could appeal the denial in court. It could try to win support from counties and apply again to Missouri regulators. Or it could attempt to circumvent Missouri by seeking federal approval to build the line through the state, as it did for an Oklahoma-to-Tennessee power line after Arkansas regulators ruled against it in 2011," Lieb reports.

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