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Missouri route announced for wind-power transmission project

Thursday, March 27, 2014 | 4:08 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A company that wants to build transmission lines to move wind energy from Kansas to Indiana has announced its proposed route through Missouri, but opponents say they'll continue the fight to keep the towers and lines away from their land.

Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, hopes to begin construction as early as 2016 on its Grain Belt Express Clean Line. The company on Wednesday asked the Missouri Public Service Commission to approve the route through northern Missouri. No hearing date has been set.

The proposed route goes through eight counties: Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls. The company has said the line could be operational by 2018.

"It's a huge opportunity for the state of Missouri," Mark Lawlor, director of development for Clean Line, said Thursday. In addition to providing access to clean energy, he said the project will create hundreds of construction jobs. Clean Line also plans to buy many of the components from Missouri companies, Lawlor said.

Still, the plan has strong opposition from many rural landowners who say the transmission lines and towers would reduce property values and potentially create a health risk. They are particularly concerned that Clean Line could eventually secure eminent domain rights to acquire land and build towers that some say would get in the way of farming or bring transmission lines too close to their homes.

"We believe that a private, for-profit speculative company getting the right of eminent domain to seize private land is a terrible precedent that we don't want in Missouri," said Jennifer Gatrel, 33, who along with her husband operates a 430-acre cattle ranch in western Missouri's Caldwell County.

Clean Line is proposing a $2.2 billion project to build a 750-mile-long high-voltage overhead transmission line. Towers 110 to 150 feet tall, with four to six per mile, would carry lines with power generated by windmill turbines in Kansas through about 200 miles of Missouri, then through Illinois and to a substation in Sullivan, Ind.

Environmental groups see it as a step forward for an energy source that could reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and cut air pollution. Clean Line has four other transmission line projects in the works in the West and Midwest.

Clean Line officials say they have been meeting with landowners and local and state officials for three years to develop the best route. The company would pay landowners, though some say the money isn't enough to make up for a potential loss of property value.

A typical county could see $800,000 annually in property taxes, Lawlor said.

 


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