Opponents of the project were mostly Missouri landowners and farmers who are determined to block the company from receiving public utility status because it would allow them to use eminent domain to force landowners to host massive power lines on their property. The Missouri PSC will ultimately decide if the private, speculative company from Texas should be granted such power over Missouri citizens.
The PSC is holding a series of public hearings in each of the eight impacted counties. The first two of them were held August 12th, in Hannibal and Monroe City. The hearings were extremely well attended. Over 700 attendees made the drive to have their voices heard. The vast majority were in complete opposition to Grain Belt.
Group spokesperson Jennifer Gatrel commented, "We were really hoping that opponents of the project would wear green to make their opposition known. We were not disappointed. The audience was a sea of green! We were also very happy that the PSC allowed the audience to show their support with applause. It soon became very apparent to all that the project was firmly opposed. We are so grateful to the many articulate, intelligent, passionate people who showed up to make extremely compelling arguments. We find it impossible to believe that the commissioners were not deeply moved."
Some of the highlights of the hearings included Missouri State Rep. Jim Hansen making an impassioned plea for property rights and liberty. Landowner Louis Meyer drove 1,000 miles to attend the hearing and spoke for 15 minutes, laying out an implacably researched and deeply moving argument against Grain Belt. He presented a literal stack of evidence to the commission to back up his statements. Mothers got up and spoke plainly about their fear of having their kids and grandkids near the lines. Farmers like Kent Dye spoke to the technical reasons why having giant obstacles in the middle of fields makes farming much more difficult and dangerous, and lowers profits.
A recurring theme at both hearings were the unsavory tactics and broken promises made by Grain Belt. A local business owner testified to the commission that his business was falsely added as a supporter of Clean Line on list created by the company. Two gentlemen, Macy Rotenburg and former state Representative John Cauthorn, testified that they had determined that many businesses were erroneously put on the supporters list. There were also many people who testified that they were told that they would get answers to their questions, but have not. One woman submitted a recording of Grain Belt Project Director of Development Mark Lawlor making promises that he later broke.
Like a night of great theater, there were tears and laughter from the crowd. One spirted lady brought a giant extension cord to the podium. She stated that one end represented Kansas, and the other end Indiana. The cord itself represented the Midwest it would pass through. She then presented the commissioners with a night light to represent the power that Missouri may purchase from Grain Belt Express. Both the officials and the audience were tickled. As she left the podium, the judge asked her with a smile, "Do you want your nightlight back”?
Block GBE recently became aware of how little progress Grain Belt Express has made with land acquisition. In July, Grain Belt stated that, to date, it has signed easement agreements from approximately 179 landowners for approximately 61 miles in Kansas. In Missouri, it has received approximately 9 easement agreements for approximately 2 miles.
"Grain Belt is proposed to cross 370 miles of Kansas, but currently only has the land rights to 16 percent of it. I guess the reports I read that Clean Line has all the land in Kansas they need for the project couldn’t have been farther from the truth,” said Matthew Stallbaumer, whose family farm near Seneca, Kansas would be impacted.
Block GBE president Russ Pisciotta remarked, "We are thrilled! We honestly don't know how the hearings could have gone better. Thank you to all who have sacrificed so much to protect private property rights. Those who came out yesterday certainly set the bar high for the upcoming hearings, but I have no doubt they too will be a rousing success!"
To find out more about this issue and to get a schedule of the upcoming public hearings please visit BlockGBEMO here.