The route of the multi-state Clean Line Energy high-voltage power line is not coming through Marion County, but that won’t stop county commissioners from opposing the project.

The route of the multi-state Clean Line Energy high-voltage power line is not coming through Marion County, but that won’t stop county commissioners from opposing the project.

According to Lyndon Bode, presiding commissioner in Marion County, the three commissioners are prepared to sign a letter opposing the project during its Monday, March 31, meeting in Palmyra.

“We (commissioners) had been talking about it the last week or two because we’ve had a number of calls,” said Bode, noting that commissioners have received calls not just from Marion County residents, but from people in Ralls and Monroe counties, too. “Some wanted something in writing, something from the commission, saying that we were opposed to their chance of getting eminent domain through the Public Service Commission.”

The letter of opposition represents a change of attitude.

“Early on we passed a resolution of support for the project,” said Bode. “That was before eminent domain was talked about. That’s really a tipping point, the right of eminent domain, because we believe landowners should have the right to fair and adequate compensation.”

A preliminary route proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, Texas, would have taken the transmission line across the middle of Marion County, and just north of Palmyra. On Nov. 25, 2013, the commissioners were informed that the Marion County route was no longer being considered.

Overall, the proposed 700-mile high-voltage transmission line will carry electricity, generated by wind turbines in western Kansas, from Illinois to the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Proponents say the project will create jobs, reduce pollution and be more efficient than traditional transmission lines. In addition to concerns about being adequately compensated, opponents are worried about health hazards and property values.


Change of heart


Marion County’s Commission is not the first to have a change of heart regarding the project. On July 30, 2012, the Monroe County Commission granted Clean Line the authority necessary to bring the power line through the county. However, on Jan. 24, 2014, Monroe County commissioners decided their initial action was “premature.”

“Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC cannot be granted such authority by the Monroe County Commission until such a time that Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC has utility status in the state of Missouri by receiving the official approval of the Missouri Public Service Commission,” explained the commissioners in a letter.

The letter went on to say that if the Public Service Commission gives such approval, the Monroe County Commission “may” grant the authority requested by Clean Line.

Recently the Pike County commissioners sent a letter to the Missouri Public Service Commission expressing their opposition to the proposed use of eminent domain in acquiring land for the project.

According to information provided by Clean Line, the process of determining property value will begin with a market study being performed in each county along the proposed route by a certified independent appraiser to determine the current market value ranges of properties. The market values and specific characteristics of each parcel will be used in determining compensation for each easement. Clean Line stresses that compensation for the easement will be calculated at “100 percent of fair market value.”


McCaskill’s view


During her town hall meeting in Hannibal on Monday, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was not prepared to take a stand on the project just yet.

“I know there is a lot of controversy around this. We’re doing our research like you’re doing your research. We want to try and get all the facts,” said the senator. “I just ask everyone to keep an open mind until we’ve got all the facts. We’ll share with you what we learn.”

McCaskill addressed concerns about living in close proximity to high-voltage power lines.

“I know there are a lot of high-power lines around this state and I know that families live safely and communities thrive when there are high-power lines around,” she said. “If high-power lines are a big problem we’re all in trouble because we’ve got high-power lines everywhere in this state, along with pipelines.”

McCaskill says Clean Line must “deal directly with the landowners” in reaching a fair price for property easements.

“I also know that this farmland up here is worth a lot of money, which is a good thing, right?” she asked.

The senator sees similarities between the current controversy and land-use complaints heard when railroads and highways were being built.

“There’s always this friction no matter what it is, whether it’s a power grid, railroad or highway,” she said.