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Appeals court sides with PSC over Grain Belt decision

  

The Public Service Commission (PSC) does have the authority to grant a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to the Grain Belt Express Clean Line Project to establish a wind energy transmission line through Missouri, an appeals court ruled Tuesday. 

The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District sided against the coalition — made up of the Missouri Landowners Alliance, the Missouri Farm Bureau, and others — which had argued the PSC erred in approving the CCN in March

The Grain Belt project would extend an overhead and direct transmission line of about 780 miles delivering wind energy from western Kansas to utilities and consumers in Missouri and other states. It would extend through eight Missouri counties: Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph, and Ralls. 

“There can be no debate that our energy future will require more diversity in energy resources, particularly renewable resources,” the commission said at the time. “We are witnessing a worldwide, long-term, and comprehensive movement towards renewable energy in general and wind energy specifically.” 

Grain Belt Express proposed route

The PSC had initially denied a CCN for the Grain Belt project in 2017. But after it approved the CCN, the Missouri Landowners Alliance and Farm Bureau appealed. 

Judge Mary Hoff said the PSC’s order was “supported by competent and substantial evidence on the whole record.” 

The Missouri Landowners Alliance “has failed to meet its burden to prove by clear and satisfactory evidence that the Commission’s order was unlawful or unreasonable,” Hoff wrote in her opinion, Judges Sherri B. Sullivan and Angela T. Quigless concurred. 

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said his organization “vigorously disagree[s] with the court’s ruling” in a statement. 

“Grain Belt Express is not a public utility. Investors who want to negotiate rates privately and enter into contracts to sell electricity to the highest bidders should not be able to condemn land in order to build their dream project,” Hurst said. “Contrary to the court’s assertion, the Missouri Supreme Court has not suggested otherwise.” 

The Grain Belt project was the subject of an eminent domain fight in the General Assembly during the last legislative session. It was ultimately unsuccessful in the Senate. 

Earlier this year, the PSC approved Invenergy’s acquisition of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC. 

The project is expected to deliver about 4,000 megawatts of renewable power and clean energy to about 1.6 million homes per year and create new jobs — including both permanent and temporary construction work.