JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Grain Belt Express Clean Line continued to pick up steam on its path to final approval when it gained the endorsement of Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday.
The wind energy project has also received the endorsement of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce as it faces final approval from the Public Service Commission. During the 2016 session the project also received the implied consent of the legislature when a bill that would have killed the clean line was rejected.
Nixon’s endorsement highlighted the expected economic impact of the project, which is expected to generate $500 million in investment and support 1,500 jobs.
“With these new protections for landowners and millions of dollars in savings for consumers, the Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a good deal for Missouri,” Nixon said in a statement. “In addition to reducing energy costs, this $500 million construction project will also boost our economy and create good-paying jobs.”
A group of 67 municipalities have agreed to purchase energy from the Grain Belt Express Clean Line, an overhead power line carrying the wind energy. The line is expected to provide 500 megawatts of power at a lower cost than traditional energy sources.
An analysis from Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission expects the line to save ratepayers around $10 million a year.
Nixon also highlighted landowner protections hailed as the “first of its kind” in Missouri, included in the project. Among those are estimates that the company will pay more than $32 million to landowners hosting the transmission line on their property.
Nixon specifically highlighted four areas where the project agreed to help protect landowners, including an agreement to offer the option of binding arbitration to resolve any compensation disputes.
Clean Line will also establish a Missouri Agriculture Protocol, meaning the company will follow strict guidelines to avoid, minimize and mitigate any impacts to agricultural fields or activities. The Agriculture Inspector will have the power to immediately stop construction when best practices are not being followed or when contractors are in violation of any negotiated obligation with landowners.
A local firm will update land value assessments. If land values have decreased since the initial evaluations, Grain Belt Express will honor the higher valuation. Land values cannot be reduced after the project’s approval by the PSC.
There will also be a fund to decommission the project when it is determined to be near the end of its useful life.
Nixon and the Missouri Chamber have both highlighted the local ties the project will have. Construction contracting for the project will be overseen by Kansas City-based PAR Electric. Components for the transmission line will be manufactured by Hubbell Power Systems in Centralia, ABB in St. Louis and General Cable in Sedalia.
Of the four states where the line will operate, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana have already approved the project.