On February 17, the Illinois Landowners Alliance (ILA) filed an appeal of a November Order by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) granting a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to Rock Island Clean Line, LLC, a subsidiary of Clean Line Energy Partners, LLC based in Houston, Texas.
The petition, filed in the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa, Illinois, asks for review of the Commission’s November Order and its January denial of requests for rehearing.
The RICL project is a proposed, for-profit long haul high-voltage DC transmission line that is completely independent of any regional grid expansion studies or plans. As current laws are written for traditional utility projects, the Illinois Commerce Commission’s application of the existing laws, as applied to this novel case, is being challenged.
The Illinois Landowners Alliance (ILA) is a non-profit organization that represents more than half of the landowners on the proposed Illinois portion of the route.
While the Alliance agrees with the ICC findings that RICL failed to prove need and declined RICL’s petition for the certificate leading to eminent domain power, the lLA contends that RICL’s routing is based on a flawed study and that the ICC failed to consult with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. In addition, the ILA contends that RICL failed to prove that the project is necessary, and that they are capable of financing the proposed construction.
Curt Jacobs, an ILA board member, states, “Too many aspects of the ICC’s Final Order put landowner rights, livelihoods, and investments at risk. Whatever the outcome of RICL, it will set case law and precedent for future private companies hoping to grab rights to our private property.”
Block RICL spokesperson Mary Mauch said, “The fact that RICL is an empty shell company with no employees or assets of its own, and separated from the parent company and investors by levels of limited liability corporations, puts our landowners at great risk. RICL can’t prove they even have commitments for the necessary funds to construct the project, yet they refuse to give any financial assurances or a decommissioning plan.”
Meanwhile, Block RICL will continue to work with affected landowners to notify them of their rights in light of the ICC’s refusal to grant the power of eminent domain along with the CPCN.
The Appellate Court will review findings of fact and the ICC’s application of the law to the facts. Depending on how long the Appellate Court takes to issue a decision, the process could likely take 6 months or more.
Last week, RICL faced another major setback when the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) denied RICL’s motion to separate the eminent domain issue from the electric franchise application process.
The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance (PRIA), President Carolyn Sheridan, said, “Rock Island Clean Line easement acquisition effort has been underway for 18 months for the 375 Iowa miles of its proposed route, but RICL has less than 15% voluntary easements obtained from total parcels (1540) across the 16 impacted counties in Iowa. There is an unprecedented number (1248 and counting) of formal objections filed with the IUB against RICL proposed line.”
Clean Line Energy Partners, LLC is also facing significant hurdles on its other projects in Missouri and Arkansas. Last week, the Missouri Public Service Commission ordered the company to produce a long list of additional information for its Grain Belt Express permit application in that state.
The U.S. Department of Energy this week is holding public comment hearings on its Environmental Impact Statement for the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. Last week, the Arkansas legislature issued a letter to the DOE condemning the use of federal eminent domain for the project, and U.S. Senators Boozman and Cotton introduced legislation aimed at requiring approval of a state’s governor and utility board before federal eminent domain may be attempted.
For more information, visit: www.blockricl.com