PSC votes 5-0 to OK Ameren proposal, but wants the nod of five counties

Marion County’s stance opposing a proposed power line running from the Palmyra area west remains intact despite a decision this week by the Missouri Public Service Commission to approve the project.

The PSC voted 5-0 in favor of the Mark Twain Transmission Project — a 95-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line project from Palmyra to Kirksville and north to the Missouri-Iowa border submitted by Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI).

The PSC’s unanimous approval of a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to construct the line came with one major caveat — ATXI must first get the nod from the commissions of the five counties in the transmission line’s path.

So far, the county commissions haven’t welcomed the project.

Marion County, on the urging of residents in the western part of the county, has opposed the project since 2014.

“Right now our constituents have asked us to oppose it and that’s where we’re at,” Lyndon Bode, the county’s presiding commissioner, said.

While Bode is still unconvinced, he conceded the door is still open.

“I think probably our stance would stand unless convinced otherwise, and that’s why I want to read what the Public Service Commission said and see if Ameren wants to talk to us more, which I think they will,” Bode said, “just see what they say and see what they’ve done to work with the neighbors and individuals they’d be getting easements from.”

Bode remains open-minded, but other government leaders along the proposed path bluntly rejected the idea.

“That will probably happen as soon as hell freezes over,” Mark Thompson told the Kirksville Daily Express, a sister paper of the Courier-Post, on the likelihood that the Adair County Commission would change its mind.

Along with Marion County, ATXI will need to get consent from the commissions in Shelby, Knox, Adair and Schuyler Counties. According to a press release from the PSC, its own rules dictates that ATXI must get consent. However, the PSC noted that a reviewing court may overturn that requirement.

“We will also work diligently with the counties to help them understand this project, its local benefits and that we satisfy the statutory requirements and meet all standards and codes that govern the design and construction of the project,” Jim Jontry, Senior Project Manager for the Mark Twain Transmission Project, said.

In its decision, the PSC said the project could open the door for more wind energy in Northeast Missouri.

“ATXI has shown a need for Mark Twain, qualifications to own and operate it, the financial ability to build it, the economic feasibility of building it, and the public interest that would be served by building it,” the commission said.

Some property owners raised health concerns and claimed the power line would violate a 2014 Missouri constitutional amendment creating a right to farm by taking land out of production.

The PSC said health concerns are unfounded and the power poles would not significantly affect farming.

“We will work with individual landowners on environmental studies, surveying and the easement process,” Jontry said.

Northeast Missouri is no stranger to controversial power projects. The PSC denied a CCN to Clean Line Energy in 2015, which sought to construct the Grain Belt Express, which would have passed through Ralls County.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at . Reporter Danny Henley and the Associated Press contributed to this article.