Missouri court rules regulators erred in denying Grain Belt transmission line

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Appellate judges rejected a decision by state regulators that denied a $2 billion interstate wind energy transmission line and are sending the case to the Missouri highest court.

The ruling announced Tuesday by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, said that the Missouri Public Service Commission was wrong last year when it did not grant a line certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to the Grain Belt Express Clean Line Project. The 750-mile Grain Belt, already approved by other states, would bring 500 MW of wind energy from Kansas to Missouri and then another 3,500 MW to Illinois and other states in the PJM Interconnection system.

In August 2016, Grain Belt’s parent firm Clean Line Energy sought  a CCN for the $2 billion high voltage direct current line’s route. The Missouri PSC rejected the application on grounds that it could not grant a CCN without the consent of each county affected in the state’s 230-mile portion.

Presiding Judge Lisa P. Page and fellow judges Lawrence E. Mooney and Roy L. Richter did not agree with the regulators, but added that the path was complicated. Grain Belt wanted the case remanded back to the commission with orders to follow the ruling, but that court cannot make such a ruling that supercedes regulators.

“The commission erred in finding it could not lawfully grant a line CCN to Grain Belt,” the Tuesday ruling reads. “We could reverse the commission’s order… However, because of the general interest or importance of the question involved in the present case, we order this case transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court.”

Parent company Clean Line called the ruling a “significant victory” for the Missouri economy, as a project that will create many jobs and also save $10 million annually from low-cost clean energy.

“After a thorough case that lasted for several months and involved testimony submitted by expert witnesses, the Missouri Public Service Commission determined the Grain Belt Express was in the public’s best interest” despite rejecting the application on procedural grounds, the company statement read.

“Every day that these benefits are delayed sets Missouri back as it strives to compete in this global economy.  It is our hope that the Missouri Supreme Court will hear this critical case in an expedited manner. To that end, we will be asking the court to schedule arguments in this case at the earliest possible moment.”

Previous Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon endorsed the Grain Belt Express during his tenure, as did companies such as General Motors, Target, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s and Nestlé. Nixon now is part of the project's legal team.

Clean Line originally filed for Missouri approval nearly four years ago. Kansas and Illinois regulators already have OK’d the line’s route through their states.

 

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