Grain Belt Appeals PSC decision asks Court of Appeals to reestablish Commission’s authority

Wind Farm in Midwest, Credit Howard Rowe
  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In the latest chapter in Grain Belt Express Clean Line’s journey to Missouri, former Gov. Jay Nixon has filed a Notice of Appeal still hoping to gain a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) from the PSC.

The Notice directs the PSC to submit the records within 30 days to the court, in this case, the Eastern District in the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The 22-page Notice outlines why the PSC, and not the counties, has authority over transmission lines, and Commissions’ deference to a court case which raised doubt about this authority was in error. In the Grain Belt case, the Commission decided to interpret the Neighbors United v. PSC from March 2017 as tying their hands. In that case, the court ruled the PSC could not issue a CCN which was conditioned upon receiving county assents.  Grain Belt argued their case could be distinguished from that ruling and in the almost 100 years of the PSC, the commission has always been the first to issue certifications for these types of projects, to be followed by county assents.

Nixon

The appeal says, “Neighbors United does not limit the Commission’s ability issue a Certificate Convenience and Necessity (CCN) in this case. …nor does it impact the Commission’s ability to grant the waiver or variance of its filing requirements that the Company sought in its June 29, 2017 motion.”

Not only does the appeal say the suit does not bind the commission, but further, that the suit has legal and factual distinctions causing it to lack parallels.

Grain Belt has argued the Commission changed its historic interpretation of the CCN statute. They point out the language requiring local approvals applies only to utilities seeking to provide retail service to a specific community and not to transmission lines which provide wholesale service. Grain Belt argues this has been the case for all previous transmission applications with the PSC.

Grain Belt further points out the county approvals in question are not a decision on the merits of the project but rather road crossing permits. They argue this approval has simply been a way for counties to ensure their roads can be properly maintained. Grain Belt states these approvals have not historically been used to block projects which are deemed necessary by the PSC.

Ultimately, Nixon and Grain Belt hope to gain a CCN application.

Nixon, as part of the bi-partisan firm Dowd Bennett, is representing Grain Belt Express Clean Line with other attorneys from Dowd Bennett, Tueth Keeney, and Clean Line. Nixon, Missouri’s immediate former governor, also served as Missouri’s longest-serving attorney general, has successfully argued cases at all levels, including before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, but also produces This Week in Missouri Politics and publishes Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.

Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.

To contact Rachael, email rachael@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.