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MPUA expresses support for Grain Belt project, addresses eminent domain concerns

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Members of the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA) expressed unwavering support for a new transmission line Tuesday, arguing it would bring massive savings to consumers all across the state.

Last month, the Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a certificate of convenience and necessity for the Grain Belt Express Clean Line to construct and manage a new transmission line that will purportedly develop renewable energy and facilitate economic growth in Missouri.

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

Jeff Bergstrom, general manager of Marshall Municipal Utilities; John Grotzinger, chief operating officer of the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC); Dennis Klusmeyer, superintendent of the city of Shelbina; and Mark Petty, director of Kirkwood Electric joined a press call Tuesday afternoon to express support for the line and discuss how exactly it would benefit consumers in their respected areas.

Grain Belt Express proposed route

“We’re all in this together, and we’re really all the same when we talk about the type of customers we have — both rural, agricultural, and local,” Petty said, contending the project will provide benefits such as “low-cost rates with reliable service and great stability because this particular transmission project allows us to have wind generation contracted for over 20 years.”

Grotzinger estimated the Grain Belt project — along with a corresponding wind farm agreement — would result in a $12.8 million annual savings for 39 cities, including the 35 that are part of the Missouri Public Energy Pool (MoPEP).

“I think this project is very worth the effort, and I think it would be well-needed in the state of Missouri,” said Klusmeyer. “We are in need of infrastructure improvement across the state and across the country. On our electrical infrastructure, this would help support that.”

“I think this project is very worth the effort, and I think it would be well-needed in the state of Missouri.”

The PSC’s previous decision was previously lambasted by Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst who expressed concerns over the company’s regulatory status and eminent domain.

“This decision sets precedent for private companies to buy land on the cheap and profit at the expense of Missouri citizens,” he said. “Allowing the project to proceed places hundreds of Missouri landowners at risk of having their land taken for a project that may never be completed.”

Last week, the Missouri House advanced legislation blocking private entities from using eminent domain to construct above-ground merchant lines — a bill directly related to the Grain Belt project. HB 1062, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jim Hansen, passed out of committee.

Should that legislation pass, it would be “tough” for the project to advance, Klusmeyer contended.

“My fear of that is the precedent that will set in the state of Missouri for any future developments to take place in the state,” he told reporters.

MPUA members also addressed potential delays with the project but said they “believe this project would [still] go forward.”

“We had heard expectations of numbers of a couple of years delay … but we’re preparing to bridge to those dates as needed,” Grotzinger said.