Mounting Concern from Utilities Over Eminent Domain
ID 125751323 © Georgesheldon | Dreamstime.com
- April 15, 2019
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A proposed bill in Missouri may set a new precedent for eminent domain. If passed the bill would prohibit all private entities from using eminent domain to acquire easements to build "above-ground merchant lines" if less than 12 percent of the power will be consumed by Missouri customers. The bill could block the Grain Belt Express project, planned for Missouri. The project would build a wind power transmission line carrying electricity from Iron Star wind farm in Kansas, across Missouri, Indiana and into Illinois. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the power to regulate transmission, not the state legislature, said Mark Petty director of Kirkwood Electric. However, Dennis Klusmeyer, city superintendent of Shelbina, is concerned the bill would bring infrastructure improvement and expansion to a screeching halt. The bill isn't yet on the House calendar but it has passed through two committees and the next step is the House floor.
In Maine, a 145-mile line has been approved to link Canadian hydro power to the New England grid via a converter station in Lewiston. Passing through several townships and six municipalities, the project would create 53 miles of new corridor in Maine. In addition to the 145-mile long DC line, there would be 44 miles of AC line improvements in southern Maine. Commissioners felt the benefits outweighed concerns to scenic and recreational values. But opponents may agree with the bill set forth in Missouri. Sue Ely, a Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine said the decision understated the damage to the North Woods, the negative impact on local clean energy projects and the project's inability to benefit the climate. The next regulatory step would be Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) and Land Use Planning Commission approval. Additionally, bills submitted to the Maine State Legislature would impact Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) if they were passed into law. These include LD 640, which would mandate an analysis of the project's emissions impact as part of the MDEP's approval process, and another bill that would require that towns along the line approve the project locally.
Meeting practical and environmental criteria through grid modernization and infrastructure improvement is expected but how are utilities overcoming local objections and state legislation that may slow progress? One opinion is passing comprehensive federal legislation now in the form of a Grid Modernization Act to improve grid stability and resilience. What’s your opinion?