Illinois regulators grant requests to rehear Illinois Rivers route decision

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) on Oct. 2 granted four petitions seeking rehearing of its Aug. 20 decision that approved portions of the route for the proposed Illinois Rivers transmission project but denied routes for two segments through central Illinois (Docket No. 12-0598).

The commission granted petitions for rehearing filed by the project’s developer, Ameren (NYSE:AEE) subsidiary Ameren Transmission Company; the Midcontinent ISO (MISO); the Morgan, Sangamon, and Scott Counties Land Preservation Group; and the Coalition of Property Owners and Interested Parties in Piatt, Douglas and Moultrie Counties. At the same time, the commission denied two other petitions for rehearing filed by landowners in Edgar and Adams Counties, both in Illinois.

The deadline for the rehearings is March 1, 2014, an ICC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Oct. 9. The commissioners have not yet set the schedule for the petitions that were granted.

In its petition for rehearing, Ameren Transmission took issue with the portion of the commission’s August decision that denied the proposed alignment of the stretch of the project that runs through central Illinois from Pawnee to Pana to Mt. Zion, Ill., because of concern that connecting those segments at a new substation in Pana may not be the least-cost option.

“[ICC] staff has suggested that connecting these segments through Kincaid ‘could’ provide the same benefits as [Ameren’s] Pawnee-Pana-Mt. Zion proposal,” the company said. “Setting aside there was no record evidence to support this conclusion, rehearing will provide an opportunity for the commission to consider additional evidence substantiating the operational and reliability benefits associated with a Pawnee-Pana-Mt. Zion route as compared to a Kincaid option.”

The company noted that the need for the project was “documented through extensive study and analyses by MISO and its member-stakeholders,” and said it assumed the ICC understood and agrees that the full benefits of the project, including transmission and reliability needs as well as the development of a competitive electricity market, cannot materialize unless the entire project is built.

“In other words, building 75% of the project will not necessarily produce 75% of the expected benefits,” the company said.

In its petition for rehearing, MISO charged that the ICC erred when it recognized the overall need for the project, but failed to authorize certain elements of the project that are essential to provide the recognized net benefits to Illinois and the adjacent region.

“The result is a transmission line project having unconnected segments, which is unjust and unreasonable and should be modified,” MISO said.

Groups charge violation of due process

Petitions for rehearing were also filed by the Morgan, Sangamon, and Scott Counties Land Preservation Group; the Coalition of Property Owners and Interested Parties in Piatt, Douglas and Moultrie Counties; the Adams County Landowners and Tenant Farmers; and a group of potentially affected landowners in Edgar County, Ill.

The Morgan, Sangamon, and Scott counties group asserted that its members were not given adequate notice of the hearings on the project and were therefore denied due process, and that the ICC’s decision gave too much weight to a chart provided by Ameren Transmission, showing the support of potentially affected parties for each of four route options for Meredosia to Pawnee, Ill., segment.

The parties in Piatt, Douglas and Moultrie counties also charged that they had been given inadequate notice, that the ICC’s order is “fatally defective” because it approved the route of the Mt. Zion to Kansas segment even though the location of the Mt. Zion substation has yet to be determined, meaning that a least-cost alternative cannot be accurately determined without knowing the endpoint of the route; and that the approved route is inferior to Ameren Transmission’s alternate route for the line segment.

The Edgar County landowners asserted that they were not given adequate notice of the hearings on the project and were therefore denied due process, while the Adams County landowners and farmers’ application for rehearing challenged the approval of the Quincy to Meredosia segment of the project, asserting it is not the “least-cost alternative,” and asked the ICC to consider a hybrid route that was proposed but not identified as a preferred route. The ICC denied both petitions for rehearing.

As planned, the 345-kV Illinois Rivers project would stretch 375 miles from the Mississippi River near Quincy, Ill., to the Indiana border near Terre Haute, Ind. It would also include building or expanding nine substations along the route to ensure reliability of the electric transmission system and to bring in additional wind energy from the west.

Designated a “multi-value project” by MISO, the estimated $1.1bn cost of constructing the transmission line will be shared by all customers living within the MISO region rather than being borne by Ameren’s customers in Illinois alone.