Former Missouri governor representing the embattled energy project he once endorsed

The fight over the Grain Belt Express — a proposed wind energy transmission line spanning northern Missouri — has climbed another rung to the Missouri Court of Appeals after the project’s third rejection by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

Attorneys for the project filed an appeal of the PSC’s rejection for necessary permits to begin acquiring easements and begin construction on Sept. 22 with the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals. The goal, according to paperwork filed with the court, is to have the rejection overturned and the required permissions given to the developers of the embattled power project. Developers say Grain Belt Express would traverse northern Missouri with a converter station near the Ralls County town of Center.

The notice of appeal focuses on what turned out to be the linchpin for the project’s rejection — the Mark Twain Transmission Project: a similar, but unrelated, power project. PSC commissioners said they could not legally grant the permits for the Grain Belt Express because the Court of Appeals said the developers of the Mark Twain Project needed assent from the counties in that project’s path first. Grain Belt has consistently received negative feedback from many of the counties in its path. The notice of appeal points out that Grain Belt Express held town halls across Missouri, and specifically pointed out Monroe and Ralls Counties, a hotbed of resistance to the project.

The appeal points out that the Mark Twain Project differs from Grain Belt Express and a denial of the permits was in error. The appeal notes that the decision should be remanded back to the PSC.

Four of the five commissioners, although rejecting the permits, conceded they would have approved the project but for the decision in the Mark Twain Project case.

“The Report and Order are in error, and in light of the clear position of a majority of the Commissioners, should be reversed and remanded with instructions to the Commission to issue Grain Belt Express the Line CCN to which it is entitled,” a brief filed by Grain Belt attorneys in the case states.

The appeal claims the Western District Court of Appeals decision on the Mark Twain Project is inconsistent with the powers given to the PSC by Missouri Revised Statutes.

A court battle may be the last leg Grain Belt Express has to stand on in Missouri, the only state yet to given permission for the project. Similar energy regulatory boards in Kansas, Illinois, and Indiana have already approved the project.

Legal representation for the project likely isn’t coming cheap to Grain Belt Express, which hired Dowd Bennett LLP in St. Louis.

The lead attorney on the case is no stranger to the project. In fact, as former governor, he advocated for the project’s passage.

Jay Nixon filed the notice of appeal on behalf of Grain Belt.

In 2016, when Nixon was still governor, he supported the project.

“The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a good deal for Missouri,” he said at the time, championing property-protecting measures he purportedly requested of Clean Line Energy, the Texas-based company behind Grain Belt Express. Multiple groups, including the Missouri Farm Bureau, chided Nixon for siding with an out-of-state corporation instead of landholding Missourians impacted by the project.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .