Supporters of a proposed electric line through Ralls County said Monday that the benefits of the project outweigh the perceived negatives — including adverse reactions to eminent domain issues.

Supporters of a proposed electric line through Ralls County said Monday that the benefits of the project outweigh the perceived negatives — including adverse reactions to eminent domain issues.

A handful of people gathered about a mile west of Center to visit the proposed site of a converter station that could deliver wind-generated electricity to thousands of homes in eastern Missouri through the Grain Belt Express.

Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy — the Texas-based company crafting the Grain Belt Express — said the converter station represents a $100 million investment in Ralls County.

The investment, according to Skelly, goes beyond creating the station.

“We think the benefits are jobs, taxes and clean energy,” he said.

Cindy O’Laughlin owns a concrete company out of Shelbina, Mo. She supports the project for a variety of reasons, but said that the work to create the station near Center is larger than any other order her company would receive in a year.

“Our opportunity to bid on business of this size is nonexistent,” she said.

Clean Lean also estimates that in the first year of operation, the project can generate more than $800,000 in tax revenue for entities in the county, including more than $600,000 for the Ralls County R-II School District.

Still, other supporters say renewable energy options like Grain Belt Express offers alternatives to costly fossil fuels.

“I firmly believe that this type of energy is coming,” O’Laughlin said.

Despite the arguments in favor of the project, a vocal opposition remains dedicated to the denial of the project. To build the project, Clean Line needs public utility status in Missouri. The Public Service Commission should render that decision within the coming few months.

Block Grain Belt express wants a decision against Clean Line. The group has mobilized on social to stop the project. Although the group lists many qualms with the proposal, the two biggest sticking points seem to be the impact on land and land values and the possible use of eminent domain.

As a result of the opposition, the Ralls County Commission rescinded its support of the project.

Ralls County Assessor Tom Ruhl, however, still supports it. He said he’s found no evidence that the Grain Belt Express would negatively impact land values.

“I’ve contacted other assessors in the state of the Missouri,” Ruhl said about the depreciation land value argument in counties with similar electric line projects. “And they said, actually, the opposite happened… so the land values went up instead of down.”

The debate over eminent continues to brew despite the rejection of a bill limiting its use in the Missouri House of Representatives. House Bill 1027, sponsored by Frankford Republican Jim Hansen, sought to limit the use of eminent domain by private utility companies. A house committee voted against the bill, effectively killing it for 2015.

“We don’t ever want to have to use eminent domain. But the fact of the matter is if you’re going to build a line that’s 700 miles long, it’s the way we build linear infrastructure. If you don’t have the mechanism to build those projects, we wouldn’t have roads, railroads,” he said.

Grain Belt Express has only one converter station along the path in Missouri — that in Ralls County. The site would look similar to an electrical substation and would convert DC power to AC power for commercial and residential use.

Skelly said he’d like to see construction on the project beginning in 2017. Construction is pending approval from the PSC. Clean Line has received the necessary clearances for construction in Kansas and Indiana and begun the process of getting the appropriate permissions in Illinois.

The company will continue to work with people along the path of the electric line.

“You have to look at all the positives and negatives. And I think the positives outweigh the negatives,” Ruhl said.