Missouri regulators reject massive Midwest wind power line

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri utility regulators rejected a proposed high-voltage power line to carry wind power across the Midwest to eastern states.

The decision on Wednesday by the Missouri Public Service Commission creates a significant hurdle for Clean Line Energy Partners, which wants to build one of the nation's longest transmission lines.

All the other states along its route already have granted approval. The line would run from Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, where it would connect with a power grid for eastern states.

Missouri regulators initially rejected the project in 2015, while questioning its benefits and burden on landowners.

This time, the regulatory commission cited a recent state appeals court ruling that said utilities must first get consent from affected counties before state approval can be granted. Four of the five commissioners believe the line is needed and would be in the public interest but said the appeals court ruling prohibits them from voting for it. Clean Line lacks local approval from several counties in its path.

News release from Public Service Commission:

JEFFERSON CITY---The Missouri Public Service Commission has denied an application filed by Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC (GBE) seeking Commission authority and a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to construct, own, operate, control, manage and maintain a high voltage, direct current transmission line and associated facilities within eight Missouri counties (Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls).

The Commission determined it lacks the statutory authority to grant a CCN because GBE failed to obtain all county assents necessary for a CCN as required by a Missouri Western District Court of Appeals decision in a recent Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI) CCN case involving a proposed transmission line in northeast Missouri.

The ATXI case involved the appeal of a Public Service Commission order. In that case, ATXI had not yet received approval from the relevant county commissions at the time the Commission issued its order on April 27, 2016. The Commission granted ATXI a CCN concluding that such county assents were required by Commission rules and by Section 229.100, RSMo. The Commission’s decision imposed a condition that ATXI obtain all necessary county assents before the CCN became effective.

On appeal, the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals determined the Commission lacked authority to grant a CCN without evidence that ATXI had received the relevant county assents and that setting a condition for obtaining the assents later did not satisfy this requirement. The Commission disagreed with the legal analysis and conclusions in that opinion and asked the Supreme Court of Missouri to accept transfer of the case. The Supreme Court denied transfer, and the Commission’s ATXI order was vacated.

“There are no material factual distinctions between Ameren Transmission Co. and this GBE case that would permit the Commission to reach a different result on the question of statutory
authority to grant a CCN in this case,” said the Commission.

“Under the Court’s direction set forth in Ameren Transmission Co.,” said the Commission, “the Commission cannot lawfully issue a CCN to GBE until the company submits evidence that it has obtained the necessary county assents under Section 229.100.”

The Commission’s vote was 5 to 0. A concurrence was issued along with the Commission’s order explaining that four of the five commissioners found there was a need for the service offered by the GBE project, that GBE was qualified to provide the proposed service, that GBE had the financial ability to provide the service, that GBE’s proposal was economically feasible, and that the project would have been in the public interest. Accordingly, those commissioners indicated they would have approved the GBE application but for the Western District Court of Appeals’ ATXI opinion.

End of news release