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Invenergy acquisition of Grain Belt project gets approval from state regulatory committee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Invenergy Tranmission LLC is set to forge ahead with a massive wind energy project after the Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved an order for its acquisition of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC Wednesday afternoon. 

The PSC noted it previously granted a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for the Grain Belt project — a massive undertaking seeking to develop an overhead and direct transmission line delivering wind energy from western Kansas to utilities and consumers throughout Missouri and other states — and could only deny the acquisition if it was deemed to be “detrimental to the public interest.”

Commissioners reaffirmed previous comments, saying they believed Invenergy to be “qualified and financially capable” of continuing the project and pointed to the energy company’s experience with both construction and finances.

The order placed the same conditions on Invenergy as it did on Grain Belt through the CCN.

“Following today’s unanimous acquisition decision by the Missouri Public Service Commission, Grain Belt Express now has all the necessary approvals from state regulators to proceed with project development,” Invenergy spokeswoman Beth Conley said in a statement to The Missouri Times. “We are grateful for the PSC’S thorough review of one of the state’s largest energy infrastructure projects and for their recognition that Invenergy has the track record and expertise to bring this $500 million investment to Missouri.”

Grain Belt Express proposed route

She lauded the project for expecting to support 1,500 construction jobs in the state and provide an estimated $7.2 million in tax revenues for school districts and local governments as well.

“Grain Belt Express will serve at least 39 Missouri communities that have agreed to purchase clean, affordable power at a savings of $12.8 million annually over the next 20 years, and we look forward to working collaboratively with landowners, local governments, and commercial partners to develop and build the project.”

Commissioner Daniel Hall successfully added an amendment to the order changing language regarding a Missouri Supreme Court case. The language changed to clarify the PSC had simply relied upon a decision in another case — albeit, while critical of the ATXI decision — during earlier CCN talks.

Last month, the regulatory committee addressed questions regarding the acquisition and its jurisdiction of the project. It affirmed its support for the project and Invenergy’s involvement then as well.

The Grain Belt project — one of the largest renewable energy projects in the country — would establish a nearly 800-mile long transmission line extending through eight Missouri counties. It has received substantial pushback from landowner organizations citing eminent domain concerns.

A House bill that would limit private companies’ ability to use eminent domain to construct above-ground merchant lines — a direct blow to the Grain Belt project — ultimately stalled in the Senate before the session ended in May.