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Conservation Groups Fight for Grain Belt Express Line

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line project would bring wind power from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. (Niserin/iStockphoto)
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line project would bring wind power from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. (Niserin/iStockphoto)
December 20, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Renewable energy groups are hoping for approval from the Public Service Commission for a project designed to bring more wind power to Missouri.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line would bring in renewable power from the wind farms of Kansas to Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, running through Randolph, Chariton and Monroe counties.

James Owen, executive director of the advocacy group Renew Missouri, says the project would improve the state's energy mix.

"Clean Line Grain Belt Express has got an arrangement with a number of municipal utilities to provide them wind power, and so we believe that is really positive for the state," he states.

The power would go to places such as Hannibal, Columbia and Kirkwood.

In 2008, voters passed a ballot initiative requiring investor-owned utilities such as Ameren, Kansas City Power and Light and Empire to find 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, and currently they do meet or exceed that rule.

Owen says rural electric cooperatives report that they get about 20 percent of their power from renewables.

For the city of Springfield, that number is 35 to 40 percent, while Columbia gets 20 to 25 percent from renewable sources.

The project is opposed by a vocal group of landowners who don't want a private company exercising eminent domain to force them to allow the transmission line to go through their property.

But Owen maintains the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

"While there is an important aspect of balancing the rights of property owners, the reality is there are lots of people who need power,” he states. “And sometimes that wind is produced in parts of the country, parts of this state, that don't have a lot of people, but that power has got to go to where the people are. "

The commission rejected the project in the past, arguing that it needed the permission of the counties it would pass through.

But the Missouri Supreme Court rejected that line of reasoning and sent it back to be decided by the PSC.

Owen says a decision is expected by February.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MO