Clean Line to appeal against Grain Belt Express line decision

UNITED STATES: Clean Line Energy Partners has asked the Missouri supreme court to review state regulators' recent decision to refuse a development permit for the Grain Belt Express HVDC transmission line.

Michael Kelly, founder and president of Clean Line Energy

The company has retained former Missouri governor Jay Nixon as legal adviser.

The $2.3-billion 1,255km project would deliver some 4GW of wind power from western Kansas to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Wind development in the Great Plains — which includes Kansas — needs take-away capacity in order to flourish. And customers want cheaper, clean power.

In mid-September, the Missouri Public Service Commission refused to rehear the case, as it had already ruled that it could not grant a permit because of an appeals-court ruling in another transmission case, even though it admitted the Grain Belt Express would serve the public interest.

In the dispute the commission referred to, the judges said that Ameren Corporation must get permission from commissioners in all counties traversed by its planned transmission line. Clean Line failed to get assent from more than one county - approval had been withdrawn in the face of opposition - for the Grain Belt Express line.

"Who has ultimate jurisdiction over Missouri's infrastructure — county commissioners or the Public Service Commission, which has been constitutionally designated to do that?" asked Mark Lawlor, Clean Line's vice president of development. "Parochial local interests" wrongly triumphed, he said. "The courts simply got it wrong" and overturned 113 years of precedence.

Lawlor points out that gas pipelines only need development permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and a single state cannot object to a proposed gas line. In contrast, electricity transmission lines must get permission from regulators in every state they cross — and, in Missouri, it seems they must also get a green light from county officials, he added.

According to Clean Line, the Grain Belt Express would save Missouri residents $10 million a year on their electricity bills, or $200 million over the 20-year life of a wind project. Clean Line is one of several private developers working on wind-friendly transmission in the US, which is in dire need of an upgraded grid and new lines to cater to burgeoning renewable energy development. America's grid is piecemeal and in many ways out-dated.