Despite ruling in another electric line case, project developers seek quick decision

Despite the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal on another electric line case, organizers of the Grain Belt Express — a controversial electric line project that would carry wind energy from Kansas through Monroe and Ralls Counties to the east — are urging the Public Service Commission to move forward in rendering a decision.

At hand is the issue of assent — or a county giving permission to a utility to use county roads to construct and operate a project. In an unrelated case, the Public Service Commission (PSC) granted necessary permissions to Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI) to construct the Mark Twain Transmission Line in the northeast part of the state. The counties in the proposed path of the Mark Twain Project, however, denied assent. A Missouri Court of Appeals vacated the PSC’s decision, saying ATXI must first receive assent from counties before permission is given by the PSC. By not hearing the case, the Missouri Supreme Court has allowed the Court of Appeals’ verdict to stand.

Grain Belt lawyers, however, are pressing the PSC to move forward with the case anyway, against calls from opponents that the fate of Grain Belt should be the same as the Mark Twain Project.

The controversial Grain Belt project has encountered significant resistance, especially in Ralls County, where landowners fear the use of eminent domain, among other property and health concerns.

Grain Belt attorneys argue, in a brief filed on June 29, that the section of Missouri state statute analyzed in the ATXI case is not the same statute applicable to the Grain Belt project.

Whereas ATXI applied for an “area” Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (Section 393.170.2), Grain Belt filed for a “line” CCN (Section 393.170.1).

“Section 393.170.1 contains no requirement that county assents or the approval of any other governmental authority be obtained, unlike Section 393.170.2,” the brief states.

The analysis of the ATXI case does not include analysis of Section 393.170.2.

However, opponents of the project say the analysis of 393.170.1 directly impacts and is related to the statute under which Grain Belt filed for a CCN.

Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri — a coalition of landowners intent on stopping the Grain Belt project — said there’s no reason now to delay a decision in the Grain Belt case. PSC commissioners said at a May 24 meeting they would wait on rendering a decision on the Grain Belt case until the Supreme Court makes its decision on the ATXI case.

With a decision now made by the Supreme Court, the ball is in the PSC’s court to make its decision in the Grain Belt case.

As of Monday afternoon, response briefs to the Grain Belt filing had not yet been received by the PSC.