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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
Having secured project siting approvals in the three other states where the project is located (Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana), Invenergy Transmission LLC is beginning the process of pursuing state regulatory approval for its proposed Grain Belt Express energy transmission line before the Illinois Commerce Commission.
As part of this process, Grain Belt Express is seeking input through public meetings on the primary and alternate routes that will run approximately 200 miles through Central Illinois, from Pike County on the Mississippi River to Clark County on the Indiana state line.
The primary and alternate routes being considered are substantially similar to those presented to the Illinois Commerce Commission in 2015 when Clean Line Energy Partners previously applied for a siting permit in Illinois.
The Grain Belt Express project was purchased by Invenergy Transmission LLC from Clean Line Energy Partners in 2018. In early 2020, Invenergy Transmission became the full and sole owner of the Grain Belt Express project. Invenergy Transmission is an affiliate of Invenergy, an Illinois-based company. Invenergy Transmission and Invenergy have no affiliation with Clean Line Energy Partners.
Invenergy Transmission LLC claims the Grain Belt Express will carry more affordable, reliable power to consumers in Illinois and other states, connecting more Americans to domestic, clean electricity sources. Invenergy Transmission LLC states that the project is expected to be built at no cost to Illinois consumers.
According to Pike County Clerk Natalie Roseberry, the Grain Belt Express is controversial because it allows a private, non-utility company to assert eminent domain over privately held ground.
“The government is going to let them use eminent domain to take farmers’ land,” Roseberry said. “It’s a slippery slope to allow a private company to do that.”
Pike-Scott Farm Bureau Executive Director Blake Roderick said that although Invenergy Transmission LLC is not a public utility, the company’s eminent power authority was created last year by an action of the Illinois state legislature.
“They’re a wholesale power broker, not a utility,” Roderick said. “The Illinois state legislature created a special carve-out for that specific company in their energy legislation that they passed at the last minute last year.”
Roderick echoed Roseberry’s concern that the carve-out will allow other private companies to assert eminent domain in the future.
“Now it’s legal for a company such as this to take land from private landowners,” Roderick said. “It’s a precedent that’s been set that now you’re going to give these companies eminent domain.”
Although Pike-Scott Farm Bureau has not declared an official position regarding the Grain Belt transmission line project in its current form, Roderick said the Bureau was opposed to the last iteration of the transmission line that was proposed under the ownership of Clean Line Energy Partners in 2015.
“We were adamantly opposed,” Roderick said. “We were successful in 2015 of stopping that.”
Roderick said that Pike-Scott Farm Bureau will continue to work closely with its members that will potentially be affected by the transmission line as the project moves forward.
“We’re going to help our members understand what their rights are,” Roderick said.
The first public meeting for Pike County residents to provide input on the proposed transmission line routes through Pike County will be held on Feb. 15 from 5-7 p.m. at the Pike County Senior Citizens Center at 220 W. Adams St. in Pittsfield.
Following the Phase 1 meeting in February, Invenergy Transmission LLC anticipates holding a Phase 2 meeting in March and a Phase 3 meeting in April in Pike County. As required by statute, public notice will be posted prior to each of the meetings in Pike County.
The Phase 1 meeting will be an open house format and attendees can come and go as they please. No formal presentation will be given during the meeting. Your safety is important to us.
The meeting will be conducted in a manner consistent with current applicable COVID-19 guidance from federal, state, and local authorities. Any persons that are medically at-risk or otherwise do not feel comfortable attending in person are encouraged to participate virtually, along with those who may need to isolate due to COVID or other reasons at the time of the meeting. The self-paced, virtual meeting will be available between February 7 and February 21, 2022, and will be accessible on www.GrainBeltExpress.com.