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After earlier rejection, Mo. PSC approves Grain Belt Express transmission line

After previously rejecting a proposed high-voltage, direct-current transmission line that will carry wind power from Kansas, the Missouri Public Service Commission has approved the Grain Belt Express project.

In a March 20 decision, the commission said the project developed by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC has economic, environmental and other benefits for the entire state.

"Wind energy provides great promise as a source for affordable, reliable, safe and environmentally-friendly energy," the commission said. "The Grain Belt Project will facilitate this movement in Missouri, will thereby benefit Missouri citizens, and is, therefore, in the public interest."

The Grain Belt Express project would run roughly 780 miles from western Kansas, through Missouri and Illinois, and into Indiana, delivering 500-MW of wind-generated power to customers in Missouri, and another 3,500 MW to states farther east. Around 206 miles of the transmission line is to run through Missouri. Regulators in Kansas and Indiana have already approved the transmission line. Project developers have indicated plans to file a new application with the Illinois Commerce Commission after an appellate court in 2018 overturned construction permit for the transmission line.

The $2.35 billion transmission line has had a long road to approval in Missouri, with the commission twice rejecting the project, first in 2015 and again in 2017. Then in July 2018, the Missouri Supreme Court determined that regulators were wrong to deny a construction permit for the project and remanded the matter back to the panel.

In its decision to grant a certificate of convenience and necessity to Clean Line subsidiary Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, the commission said the project is in the public interest. Among other benefits, the project will bring jobs, provide a chance for utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and have a "substantial and favorable effect on the reliability of electric service in Missouri."

Invenergy LLC, which through its Invenergy Transmission LLC affiliate is planning to buy the project from Clean Line, said it is grateful for the "thoughtful and thorough consideration" the commission gave to the project.

The commission has scheduled hearings for April 23-24 in the case involving the proposed acquisition. (Missouri PSC Case No. EM-2019-0150)

The Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst in a statement said the commission should not have approved the line and that the decision "sets precedent for private companies to buy land on the cheap and profit at the expense of Missouri citizens."

But in its order, the commission said "superior" compensation payments and a binding arbitration option for easement negotiations will help mitigate any negative impacts of the project on the land and landowners. (Missouri PSC Case No. EA-2016-0358)