All three of Clean Line's active projects took it in the shorts last week, in one form or another. This is the direct result of overwhelming, forthright and committed opposition in every state through which it intends to build its Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express and Plains & Eastern Clean Line projects. And to get there, it's taken an enormous amount of dedication, organization and hard work on the part of some savvy opposition leaders, and the help of everyone involved to raise this issue in the public dialogue. So, pat yourselves on the back, everyone!
First, let's look at the Rock Island Clean Line project. It STILL has not been approved in Illinois, despite Clean Line's project leader telling newspapers it had been. It was on the Illinois Commerce Commission's agenda on Thursday, but, once again, the Commission kicked the decision down the roadfor another day. Clean Line had been telling folks that once it got approval in Illinois, it would file for its franchise in Iowa. Even though approval is still up in the air (and the proposed order of the ALJ did not recommend eminent domain authority at this time, along with a whole bunch of other hurdles that make the project much less viable) Clean Line went ahead and filed its applications in Iowa.
The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance says that despite having land agents active in the community for the past year, the company still has only secured easements for 15% of the property it needs to build its line.
Clean Line said the company will need to cross approximately 1,500 separate land parcels in Iowa to reach Illinois. So far, about 200 owners have signed agreements. That’s about 15 percent of the total needed.
Eric Andersen, another Clean Line opponent from Grundy County, said the small number of willing sellers so far will be one of the arguments opponents use against the plan.
“This is a private investment firm that’s building a private transmission line and they want to use eminent domain on 85 percent through some of the best farm land in the world. That’s a huge deal,” Andersen said.
Turning now to Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project, evidentiary hearings got underway before the Missouri Public Service Commission this week. In addition to the various landowner groups and others opposing the project, the staff of the MO PSC has also adopted a position opposing the project:
“As staff has set out in the position statements it filed last Friday, it is staff’s view that the evidence in this case will not show that the transmission line and converter stations are needed, economically feasible, or will promote the public interest in Missouri,” Williams tells the Commission.
Clean Line turned to the Department of Energy and Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The little-known provision would enable DOE to work through a federal power marketing administration and, in certain instances, condemn property required for easements.
Clean Line filed a similar application with DOE for the Grain Belt Express project in 2010.
In a testy exchange during Monday’s hearing in Missouri, Agathen, the landowners’ attorney, repeatedly asked whether Clean Line would pursue federal approval of the Grain Belt Express project if denied by the Missouri PSC.
Skelly said Clean Line’s application for Section 1222 authority for Grain Belt Express is still pending at DOE but inactive. And the company would exhaust efforts to persuade state regulators to approve the project before turning back to the federal government.
“We would look at the no and figure out a way to turn it into a yes,” he said.
"Game & Fish Commission Director Mike Knoedl said that bird deaths in the area would be 'astronomical' because of the high lines and towers, some as tall as 200 feet."