The fate of the Mark Twain Transmission Project is in the hands of the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC), leaving the project's opponents, Neighbors United, and proponents, Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI), with little to do but wait for a ruling.

The fate of the Mark Twain Transmission Project is in the hands of the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC), leaving the project’s opponents, Neighbors United, and proponents, Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI), with little to do but wait for a ruling.

“It’s really kind of a waiting game,” said James Jontry II, project manager, Ameren Transmission. “There’s nothing that compels them (PSC) to decide at any timeframe. I hope we get a decision by the end of the month. I’m optimistic we’ll get something by the end of the month. If we don’t it could set us back. Our schedule is pretty tight regarding what we need to do this summer as far as real estate surveying, especially the environmental work we need to do to make the project move forward.”

The proposed 100-mile transmission line project would impact a handful of Northeast Missouri counties, including Marion.

Both sides have heard things from the PSC which has given them cause to hope for ruling in their favor.

Neighbors United recently quoted a reply brief from the PSC staff that stated ATXI “must prove to the Commission that it has permissions from the county commissions of Marion, Shelby, Knox, Adair and Schuyler Counties, Missouri, to cross the public roads and highways in those counties before the Commission can lawfully issue the certificate (of convenience and necessity - CCN). ATXI has not done so, and apparently cannot do so. In these circumstances Staff sees little recourse for the Commission other than to dismiss ATXI’s application, with or without finding ATXI has shown the Mark Twain project is necessary and convenient.”

While ATXI acknowledges that the county commissions in each of those five counties has stated publicly that it opposes the project, Jontry says that stance is not a project killer.

“We’ll have to work on that after we get the certificate,” he said. “Right now we’re just waiting on the PSC to tell us legally what we are required to do.”

Ameren’s hopes were bolstered during last week’s PSC meeting when some of its members remarked they “felt it was a good project, (and) was beneficial to Missouri and in the public interest,” said Jontry.

Tax benefits

ATXI announced Tuesday, April 12, that the Mark Twain Transmission Project would generate an estimated $3.5 million in new annual property taxes for the five counties in the project’s footprint, once the project goes into service.

That total includes $2.3 million for school districts in those five counties. According to Leah Dettmers, specialist, stakeholder relations, $358,000 would come to Marion County. Shelby County schools would see an estimated $437,000.

Construction work in progress also is taxed, and Ameren estimates that $700,000 in property taxes will be paid in the 2017-18 time period under the project’s current schedule. This includes $100,000 for Shelby County and $185,000 for Marion County.

Dettmers doubts the additional tax revenue will change the minds of many opponents to the project.

“It (tax revenue impact) is significant, but there’s a multitude of different reasons why people are opposed to the lines that are very personal. Other people may be swayed by it,” she said. “Hopefully we can mitigate those circumstances as we move along in the process.”

“I think that the benefits that the project brings, which is access to renewables, lower-cost energy and enhanced reliability for the transmission grid, are the main benefits. That’s why we’re doing the project,” added Jontry. “The tax benefit is nice. Whether or not it sways anybody, I’m not sure, but we feel like its good information for everybody to have.”

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com