Missouri Supreme Court clears obstacle blocking Grain Belt Express

High voltage electric transmission lines are silhouetted against the late day sky near Spearville, Kan.
High voltage electric transmission lines are silhouetted against the late day sky near Spearville, Kan.

The Grain Belt Express, a long-delayed power line project that would connect the Eastern power grid to wind farms in western Kansas, cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a regulatory obstacle in its path.

The $2.2 billion project would span four states and 780 miles. It would run from western Kansas, which some call the “Saudi Arabia of wind,” across Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, where it would connect to the Eastern power grid. The Grain Belt Express would deliver enough energy to power more than 1.5 million homes a year — including 200,000 in Missouri.

Opponents include Missouri farmers, some of whose families have lived on their land for more than 100 years.

“Today’s unanimous ruling means Missourians are closer than ever to benefiting from the clean, affordable energy and economic boost this transformational infrastructure project will deliver to the Show-Me-State,” Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, the Texas-based company behind the Grain Belt Express, said in a statement.

Before Tuesday’s ruling, the Missouri Public Service Commission said that it couldn’t sign off on the project unless it received consent from all eight Missouri counties the Grain Belt Express would cross: Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Ralls. But, the commission said, it would’ve approved the project if it had been legally able to.

This ruling clears the way for the state to give its go-ahead first, although it still requires assent from six of the eight counties.

When the project hit the Missouri roadblock, it had been approved in the other three states, but now an Illinois court has rescinded that state’s approval.

“It’s likely that they’ll give consent, but we’d hope they’d consider new evidence because the economics of the project have changed since they heard the case last,” said Russ Piscotta, president of Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri. Federal tax credits are in place for wind energy companies, he said, but they have gone down in value since the Public Service Commission last heard the case.

Piscotta pledged to continue the fight against the Grain Line Express.

“We are disappointed and disagree with the decision, but it’s a long way from being over,” he said. “We’re going to continue this fight for our property rights and to fight against unnecessary use of eminent domain.”