(The Center Square) – The Missouri Public Service Commission gave final approval Thursday for construction of the Grain Belt Express power line to run across the state.
The commission approved an amendment to an original request by a 4-1 vote, ending a 10-year process. Kayla Hahn, appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson to the commission earlier this year after serving as his policy director, cast the only vote against.
Hahn was the last commissioner to speak on the measure, but each of the four commissioners voiced concerns about Grain Belt, an Invenergy Transmission project. Hahn was concerned about short notice given to landowners when Grain Belt approached properties for the first time, no additional compensation if the lines carry internet broadband lines and other matters.
“I don’t think I would feel comforted with the fact that they’ve known that the lines are coming for a decade and they give me 24-hour notice before they’re coming on my property,” Hahn said. “… I am very concerned about this project moving forward. If I had a message to the General Assembly, I would really look at the statute regarding good-faith negotiations being modified for projects like this regarding crop compensation, third-party easement compensation and notice for these merchant line projects.”
When introducing the initiative, Commission Chairman Scott Rupp said the project will transport clean, low-cost electricity from renewable generation plants to be built in southwestern Kansas. He said wind and solar energy resources will lower energy and capacity costs in Missouri by approximately $17.6 billion between 2027 and 2066. He added it will create 5,757 construction jobs and $586 million in worker earnings during the three-year construction period.
“The broad economic benefits, the increased resiliency and reliability of the grid, the cost savings for Missouri electric customers associated with the project, the entire state of Missouri and beyond outweigh the concerns of the individual landowners,” Rupp said.
Commissioner Maida Coleman stated commission members understood concerns of landowners about the project.
“As a lifelong Missourian who grew up amongst farmers, I understand and empathize with the fears and frustrations of the affected landowners,” Coleman said. “I recognize that for many land owners, this transmission line is an intrusion that they believe will adversely impact both the value and use of their land. Other stakeholders have expressed their concerns about the environmental impacts.”
A media release from the Sierra Club described the approval as a “huge win for clean energy in Missouri and neighboring states.”
“Given the choice, I’d rather see Missouri enjoy clean wind and solar from Kansas than dirty coal from Wyoming or fracked gas from North Dakota,” Brian Smith, the Missouri organizing representative for the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “Not only does wind and solar energy benefit our environment and public health because there’s no air or water pollution, it saves Missourians money because the fuel is free.”
The Sierra Club also stated reduced air pollution from burning fossil fuels will save Missourians $7.6 billion in health care bills. The organization said Grain Belt estimates Kansans will save $1.2 billion and Illinoisans save $4.3 billion on utility bills during the next 15 years.