Does the Missouri Supreme Court decision kill the Clean Line project?

Wind Farm in Midwest, Credit Howard Rowe

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A decision on the proposed Grain Belt Express transmission line could soon be made, following a Missouri Supreme Court decision not to act this week. And supporters and opponents both disagree as to whether the decision will have an effect on the progression of the Grain Belt Express through the Show-Me State.

On Tuesday, the court refused to review a March 28 opinion that had overturned the Missouri Public Service Commission’s approval of a transmission line in another case, this one involving a transmission line for Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois.

The Western District Court of Appeals ruled that the PSC had improperly given a certificate of convenience and necessity for the project as long as county commissions along the path of the transmission line approved it.

Tuesday’s decision means that the ruling stands, and if that is applied to the Grain Belt case, it could mean another major hurdle, as it would require the approval of the eight counties affected by the line.

Opponents of the Grain Belt project believe this will effectively kill it, while the company itself says they don’t think it changes anything.

Right now, six out of the eight counties have rejected the project, and Clean Line opponents say that under that ruling, the PSC would have no authority to approve the transmission line.

But Mark Lawlor, vice president at Clean Line Energy, says the case should not be impacted by the court decision regarding Ameren’s Mark Twain.

“The appellate court evaluated the Ameren project under a completely different section of the statute than that which the Grain Belt Express used. In fact, nowhere in the court decision does it even reference the specific statute utilized by Grain Belt Express,” he said. “The Missouri Public Service Commission has the legal authority to move forward with a decision on the Grain Belt Express case.”

As for the issue of county assent, Lawlor says that under state law, they are not intended to serve as the county’s opinion, but are rather the opportunity to review the locations which the project proposes to use to ensure they comply with any engineering requirements in the county.

“We remain hopeful that the Missouri Public Service Commission will see the tremendous public benefits the Grain Belt Express will bring to Missouri, including $10 million in annual savings to municipal customers who will use the line,” Lawlor said. “We are also looking forward to putting hundreds of Missourians to work manufacturing components for the project and more than 1,300 Missourians to work constructing the line. We stand ready to build the critical infrastructure necessary to deliver low-cost clean energy to homes and businesses across Missouri.”