Opponents of a proposed electric transmission line through Northwest Missouri are preparing to express their viewpoints at public hearings over the next two months.
Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri is opposing construction of the line along a route planned for the state. A portion of the line would also cross Northeast Kansas.
Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, Texas, hopes to construct the Grain Belt Express — a wind-powered, 700-mile, 3,500-megawatt direct current transmission line through the region. The company said the work is justified by a need for increased electric power in eastern states.
Yet the opponents identified their major concerns as perceived impacts to property rights, property devaluation, health effects and impediments the lines would impose on agriculture.
The Missouri Public Service Commission has scheduled a series of public hearings this month to help determine if Grain Belt Express Clean Line should build the high-voltage transmission line. Hearings will be held in early September in St. Joseph, Cameron and Hamilton, Mo. The first hearings on the process begin next week in several northeast Missouri communities.
On Thursday, Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri said it is summoning its members to attend the hearings in order to speak out against the project.
“We really cannot overemphasize how crucial these public hearings are to preventing the precedent of an out-of-state company receiving the state’s power of eminent domain to take private property for its speculative, for-profit venture,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Gatrel.
Mark Lawlor, Clean Line’s director of development, said the company continues to negotiate with landowners toward securing agreements for the project.
“These continue to progress,” he said of the talks.
Mr. Lawlor said there also are preliminary discussions with businesses — concrete, construction aggregate, and surveyors among them — as potential participants in building the line. Firms to be involved in the work likely would come from categories similar to those that were key in constructing area natural gas pipelines, he said.
“A lot of the information has made its way out there,” he added.
If built, Mr. Lawlor said Grain Belt would bring jobs, cheaper energy, and cleaner air and water, among its benefits. The property tax base would grow sufficiently to boost public services like ambulances and schools, he said.
Of the hearings themselves, Grain Belt said it believes public input of all stripes is essential to the state’s approval process. The company realizes there are opponents as well as supporters.
“I think they’ll be highly attended,” Mr. Lawlor said. “It will provide ample opportunity for people to participate.”
All viewpoints will “absolutely” be allowed during the hearings, he said. The fact that hearings will be held in each county along the planned route is an unusual step taken by the PSC, he added.
“We have no intent of limiting people’s ability to speak,” Mr. Lawlor said. “These venues will have room for several hundred people.”
Based on studies, Clean Line is affirming there would be no adverse health consequences for residents living near the line. Farming can proceed on ground adjacent to the site.
“The answer is no,” he said of the chances for negative impacts.