Touted by its authors as a "better deal" for landowners, the report urges formation of Special Purpose Development Corporations (SPDCs) to assemble land for transmission corridors. The report claims SPDCs will provide faster, cheaper land acquisition for developers. However, Block leaders are putting the brakes on this approach to land acquisition that presumes landowners will sell if the price is right, and leaves no options for landowners who do not wish to sell.
"I will not be on board to support the high voltage transmission line at any price. My property rights and the ideology of my farm are priceless to me. No amount of money is going to buy me into alliance with Clean Line. I am even more repulsed by this company now. This is just another avenue to deceive people. They are not going to entice me with shares of a company I want nothing to do with," said Shan Christopher, impacted Missouri landowner.
The report calls for state public utility commissions to form the SPDCs, after first receiving the power of eminent domain from their respective legislatures, and to get into the business of condemning private property and managing its sale to transmission developers. Other report suggestions for SPDC formation and management include state agencies with eminent domain authority, local governments, or even the transmission developers themselves.
"We have constitutional rights, existing laws, and procedures that merchant transmission projects are already attempting to slide by which is the real reason that there are epic eminent domain cases looming. This report advocates a drastically different approach that circumvents the protections we have in place protecting ratepayers from unnecessary transmission and homeowners/landowners from the abuse of eminent domain. This new, corporation approach raises major issues about whose best interests would really be served. Truly ‘voluntary' land acquisition is being able to say 'No, go away,' without the threat of coercion. Whether it's by eminent domain or some corporation, the facts don't change that our private property rights are under attack," remarked Mary Mauch, co-founder of Block RICL, Illinois.
The Block groups, who collectively represent the interests of thousands of landowners across the Midwest currently being courted to sell rights of way to transmission developer Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, were not consulted in the creation of the report, and are unaware of any landowner groups who might have participated in its development.
"This attempt to align the financial interests of transmission developers and landowners will not decrease opposition to transmission projects," said Jennifer Gatrel of Missouri.
Joel Dyer, a member of Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energy, remarked, “This SPDC idea seems to be an added layer that is intended to insulate the Clean Line investors and executives from the consequences of their actions. My father, a World War II combat vet, Pacific theater, never asked for or expected any kind of recognition or special treatment because of his service, but Clean Line has shown their gratitude for his service by threatening him with the eminent domain authority of the federal government. Where is our sense of moral decency when private investors can ruin a veteran's life work, his farm, and distance themselves from his pain with the help of SPDCs?”
The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance Board President Carolyn Sheridan stated, "We advocate for the right to control the use of our land. PRIA is a powerful grassroots resource that researches latest trends, public policies and documented impacts related to the RICL project. Our mission is simple: to empower communities and all landowners so that educated decisions, and not fear, can drive action to protect the land they rightly own. Extensive research and discussion with qualified legal counsel is necessary to determine the impact that SPDCs would have on landowners."
Landowners are confused by and wary of the Center for Rural Affairs recent support for transmission development, and some believe CFRA has lost its focus on representing the interests of small, family-owned farm businesses.
"The Center for Rural Affairs continues to champion corporate interests to the detriment of struggling farmers. I don't believe they are representing my interests anymore," said impacted Kansas farm owner John Broxterman.
The idea of SPDCs shifts political responsibility for massive eminent domain takings from transmission developers to state and local governments, making them the "bad guys," and pitting neighbor against neighbor.
"I don't think Grain Belt is good for Clinton County or any Missouri resident. I don't want them to take my land and give me shares of a company I don't believe in or trust. Clinton County is supporting Block GBE one hundred percent. Two of the commissioners have promised residents we will invoke section 229.100 to prevent Grain Belt from coming across Clinton County," said Larry King Clinton County Missouri Commissioner.
The Block leaders view the report as just one more attempt by corporate interests to dictate landowner and agricultural priorities in order to further their own pocketbooks.
Link to CFRA report
For more information please visit:
Block Grain Belt Express MO
Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energy