What’s up with Clean Line?

Wind Farm in Midwest, Credit Howard Rowe

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Grain Belt Express Clean Line wind energy project has been working hard to get the green light from the Missouri Public Service Commission for years now, but the questions still remain the same: Will it pass, and if so, when?

Many have been left wondering where the project stands, as it has seemingly gone quiet in the past few weeks. The case before the PSC has wrapped up, with final briefs filed at the end of April.

All that’s left to do is for the commission to issue a ruling on the matter. But there’s no established timeline for that, at least not one available to the public.

We reached out to the PSC’s media liaison to ask if there was any date or indications as to when a final ruling might be issued, and the response was to “continue to look at the weekly agendas as it will probably appear on an agenda first as a discussion item.”

In short, there’s no real clear factor that forces the PSC to issue their ruling immediately. In fact, they could feasibly take months to issue the ruling, but one would guess, more than anything, that the real reasoning behind the wait is the massive case load the PSC staff is dealing with.

Currently, the PSC has been working diligently to get a number of rate cases through the pipelines, so to speak, working on true-ups and adjusting tariffs as needed while compromising with utilities. The most notable of these compromises has been in Ameren and KCP&L’s rate cases.

But, that still leaves the interested parties in the Clean Line project twiddling their thumbs. Brian Grace, the principal with Dentons lobbying firm, has been a significant component in the fight to allow Clean Line to run transmission lines through the Show-Me State, and he says that for now, all they can do is wait.

But as stated earlier, the issue is not so much a question of when, but if the PSC will rule in favor of allowing Clean Line to continue their work.

One thing that could present an issue – a major roadblock, really – is county assent.

If the PSC attaches a provision to their ruling requiring the county assent, it would mean that the PSC could sign off on the Clean Line project… but that the project would still require the green light from the counties, which could more easily be said than done. The hearings on the project in each county saw nearly equal representation from both sides, but it’s an indicator that not everyone is still willing to sign off.

Grace says they’ve seen it before with Ameren’s Mark Twain Project, where rather than try and convince the counties to sign off on it, Ameren abandoned it and is now partnering up with local coops to share transmission lines.

But, in the end, the decision still lies in the hands of the PSC. If they do not sign off on it, however, there’s always a chance that Clean Line goes over the heads of the PSC and straight to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which would mean the PSC would no longer have any regulatory power over the Clean Line transmissions.

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