Missouri governor endorses Grain Belt transmission project

Citing a commitment to landowner protections, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has announced his support for the $500m Grain Belt Express Clean Line, saying it would provide 500 MW of low-cost, clean power to Missouri.

Nixon’s support is important because Missouri is the last of four states where approval is needed for the Grain Belt Express; regulatory commissions in Kansas, Illinois and Indiana have approved the project.

At Nixon’s request, Clean Line Energy has committed to a new set of industry-leading landowner protections that would be the first of its kind for a Missouri infrastructure project, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The company has agreed to measures that include binding arbitration to resolve compensation disputes.

The company estimates that it will pay more than $32m to landowners who host the transmission line on their property.

The Grain Belt Express is an overhead power line that will deliver enough low-cost wind energy to Missouri to power 200,000 homes annually.

On its website, Clean Line Energy Partners describes the Grain Belt Express as a project that will deliver about 4,000 MW of low-cost wind power from western Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and neighboring states. The clean energy will be transported via an approximately 780-mile overhead, direct current (DC) transmission line.

Earlier in June, a group of 67 Missouri municipal utilities agreed to buy long-term transmission service on the Grain Belt Express. The agreement is expected to save municipal ratepayers at least $10m annually because it will replace more costly power contracts, according to an analysis performed by the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission.

“With these new protections for landowners and millions of dollars in savings for consumers, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a good deal for Missouri,” Nixon said.

“In addition to reducing energy costs, this $500 million construction project will also boost our economy and create good-paying jobs. I appreciate Clean Line for answering my call for these enhanced landowner protections and for ensuring the transmission line is built in a way that creates jobs and saves money for Missourians,” Nixon said.

Nixon asked that the Grain Belt Express institute a series of additional landowner protections, which build upon Clean Line’s current commitments. These new requirements create the strongest set of landowner protections to date required of any Missouri infrastructure project. Specifically, Clean Line has agreed to:

•Offer the option of binding arbitration to resolve any compensation disputes.

•Establish a Missouri Agriculture Protocol. Clean Line will follow strict guidelines to avoid, minimize and mitigate any impacts to agricultural fields or activities. The Missouri Agriculture Protocol should implement utility best practices and establishes an Agriculture Inspector to monitor construction activities. The Agriculture Inspector has the power to immediately stop construction when best practices are not being followed or when contractors are in violation of any negotiated obligation with landowners.

•Establishment of a fund to decommission the project when it is determined to be near the end of its useful life.

•Have a local firm update land value assessments. In the event land values have decreased since the last assessment because of commodity prices or any other reason, the Grain Belt Express will honor the higher of the values. Also, compensation will not be reduced after an Order has been issued approving the project by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The Grain Belt Express will produce an estimated more than $7m in property tax revenue starting in year one of the transmission line’s operation. The additional property tax revenue will benefit schools, as well as ambulance districts, fire districts and others located near the route in northern Missouri. The Missouri Economic Research & Information Center (MERIC) has performed an analysis that estimates the Grain Belt Express will support 1,500 jobs in Missouri during the construction.

The Grain Belt Express will utilize Missouri-based labor and manufacturing. Kansas City-based PAR Electric will be the construction contractor for the project and will employ union workers to build the Grain Belt Express. Hubbell Power Systems in Centralia, ABB in St. Louis and General Cable in Sedalia will manufacture components for the Grain Belt Express.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.