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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Missouri doesn’t need Clean Line

Granting Clean Line public utility status sets a dangerous precedent

April 10, 2014

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Dear Editor,

By now most everyone has read or heard about the Grain Belt Express, the extremely high voltage transmission line proposal from Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, Texas. They claim it is to transport electricity generated from wind in western Kansas to Indiana where it would connect with the grid that powers the Northeast states. Clean Line Energy is a private for-profit company that has never built anything and wants to be a utility company in Missouri and ten other states and build over 3,000 miles of direct current (DC) lines in four separate proposals.

The scale of the projects is unprecedented and so is the opposition to them. If granted Public Utility status in these states, they would have the power of eminent domain which they would use to acquire around 50,000 acres of easements. They would acquire over 5,000 acres of easements in Missouri alone and impact nearly 1,000 landowners.

Clean Line Energy is claiming they would improve the grid and drop off lots of much needed "cheap, clean" electricity to Missouri. However, interestingly, not one of our existing utilities has publicly expressed support for the proposal. Clean Line also has no contracts to sell any electricity in Missouri or anywhere else, not even in the northeast where most of the electricity is to be sent. They are only promising to drop a negligible amount of electricity in Missouri in order to satisfy the Public Service Commission's requirement that Public Utilities provide a public use and benefit. The Public Service Commission also requires that Public Utilities fulfill a necessity; however Clean Line cannot show any.

Clean Line is making loads of promises about how good their proposal would be for Missouri and the counties it crosses as well as what a good neighbor they would be. They claim no one would even notice the world's highest voltage DC transmission line on structures towering 12 to 20 stories tall right out their door and running through the middle of their fields. When their empty promises never materialize, these billionaire venture capitalists from Texas and New York will likely have already sold the company to their other partner, National Grid, and raked in a huge profit from the land they basically stole from hard-working landowners. National Grid is a company based in the U.K. that currently owns 40% of Clean Line Energy Partners and has an option to purchase the rest of the company and easements at any time.

Direct Current (DC) lines are proposed since that technology enables extremely high voltages to be transported long distances more efficiently and less expensively since less electricity is lost in the process. It requires, however, a very costly conversion station at each end to convert the electricity to DC at the beginning and back to AC at the end. It makes dropping off and adding in electricity along the line impractical. In order to drop any electricity in Missouri, another station would be required to convert the DC power to AC in order to feed it into the grid. That extra converter would not only be very costly but also problematic. Only two DC systems in the world have more than just the two at the end points because it is a source for a loss of electricity and would defeat the purpose of using DC lines. I anticipate that Clean Line or their successor will ultimately determine that building it would not be economically feasible and require any potential customers build and operate the converter. If they did, they would likely pass on the cost to ratepayers resulting in higher prices.

These transmission lines would not only violate property rights, they would be eyesores, obstacles to farming, would limit future land use options, would reduce property values far more than compensation and make selling some properties virtually impossible. They would eliminate thousands of acres of trees and brush contributing to climate change and increase erosion.

The bottom line is this proposal has no merit. Missouri does not need it and will not benefit from it. Therefore, it does not qualify to be a utility company that would have the power of eminent domain.

If Clean Line Energy was granted Public Utility status, a very dangerous precedent would be established. After that, virtually any company that proposes a transmission line through Missouri without any proven benefit and necessity will likely get approved and Missouri will be crisscrossed with high voltage lines.

Due to overwhelming public opposition and lack of merit, eight of the original 14 counties with proposed lines have now rescinded the support they gave to Clean Line prior to its announcement to the general public. The six counties that have not yet rescinded their support are Buchanan, Livingston, Carroll, Macon, Randolph and Shelby.

If you are on the proposed transmission line route, you probably have received a certified letter from Clean Line Energy. We advise that you do not allow them to coerce you into signing an easement agreement. They are not a Public Utility and have only just applied to become one about two weeks ago and the process could take several months. There is no advantage in signing an easement agreement now. We should all be vigilant to protect our elderly relatives and neighbors from being taken advantage of by conniving land agents. We strongly advise that no one ever signs anything regarding Clean Line Energy Partners' Grain Belt Express without an attorney.

It is extremely important to take action to stop this senseless proposal. Write and express your opposition to the Mo. Public Service Commission and use case # EA-2014-0207. Ask your state legislators to support HB 2092, a bill that would prohibit Eminent Domain authority being granted to large transmission line projects that pass through Missouri with little or no benefit to Missouri. The Mo. Office of Public Counsel also needs to hear from you so they will take a stand against their approval. Another way to help is to call and urge your county Farm Bureau board president to oppose the Grain Belt Express. It is expected that they will intervene at the Public Service Commission if all eight counties on the final route oppose it. Finally, please go to www.MissouriLandownersAlliance.org and support them in their legal case against Clean Line at the PSC.

Russell Pisciotta, Block Grain Belt Express-Mo, NoTowersHere@gmail.com

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