Block GBE board member Don Davies with block apparel and signage.

Block Grain Belt Express application denied for the second time

The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) denied a Texas company’s application for a proposed private-equity, high-voltage power line project across Missouri for the second time on Tuesday.  The PSC found that Grain Belt Express (GBE) failed to file proper notice of its most recent application.

Jennifer Gatrel, spokesperson for opposition group Block Grain Belt Express, explains, “In the first case, which we are calling round one, Grain Belt filed the required 60-day advance notice of its public utility application, according to PSC rules. In their second application, filed June 30, GBE tried to sneak around the rule by failing to file notice and then claiming they shouldn’t have to give notice because they’re not a utility. I believe they hoped to limit our time to prepare for their application in order to disenfranchise us from participating in the proceeding and protecting our property rights. We commend the Commissioners for their quick and fair decision.”

 “Slick legal trickery by Grain Belt Express is nothing new,” said Joe Gleespen of Concerned Citizens and Property Owners, a citizens’ group opposing GBE in Illinois.  “Their Illinois permit is now on appeal here because it was also incorrectly filed, ironically because GBE filed its Illinois application under an expedited process reserved for public utilities. GBE claimed it is a utility in Illinois in order to get quicker approval, but claimed it is not a public utility in Missouri in order to avoid the required notice.”

After over a yearlong fight over the Grain Belt Express (GBE) that engaged thousands of Missouri residents, last summer the PSC denied a permit for the project, as well as access to eminent domain authority. The PSC found, “Grain Belt failed to show that its proposed line is necessary or convenient for the public service of the people in Missouri.”

Russ Pisciotta, President of Block GBE-MO, said his group has just completed a very successful series of community meetings across the state and is now at the beginning stages of fundraising.  “Although our attorney is working pro-bono, we still have significant expenses for expert testimony on the horizon,” he said.  “The 60 day notice is vital to allow landowners to participate in the process.”

At the recent meetings, landowners resoundingly rejected Governor Nixon’s recently touted “landowner protections.”

Loren Sprouse of Block Grain Belt Express stated, “He talked proudly about protections he had personally obtained for landowners including binding arbitration to settle easement disputes.  No landowner wants binding arbitration—we already have a judicial process for property condemnation.  Binding arbitration only lets the investors make more money faster by going around the Missouri Constitution.  He also tried to assure Missouri citizens he got guarantees that Clean Line would not lower their first easement offers after receiving the power of eminent domain. In other words, he set the tone for landowners not to expect more than the initial offers they have already rejected.”

“None of the affected landowners or other stakeholders were given any opportunity to participate in the Governor's landowner negotiations with the company,” said Wiley Hibbard, Presiding Commissioner of Ralls County.  “These so called protections are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. They do not protect us.”

Grain Belt filed a notice yesterday that it intends to file a third application with the PSC in late August. It is likely to take at least a year before another decision is reached by the PSC.

Background:

Finding of the Public Service Commission in Its Order Denying

Grain Belt’s Request for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity:

On July 1, 2015, the Missouri Public Service Commission issued a Report and Order in which it rejected the Application from Grain Belt Express to build a high-voltage electric transmission line across eight counties in northern Missouri.

The Commission’s Order included the following findings and conclusions:

● Grain Belt’s own studies failed to support its allegation that the line would result in lower retail rates for consumers in Missouri.

● Construction of the line would create transmission congestion in Missouri, which leads to wasted fuels expenses and increases in other costs.

● Wind energy generated in other nearby states has a lower cost than the wind energy which would be transported on Grain Belt’s proposed line.

● Farmers on whose property the proposed line would be located could experience problems relating to soil compaction, interference with irrigation equipment, aerial applications to crops and pastures, and problems maneuvering large equipment around towers.

● The proposed line is not needed for grid reliability in Missouri.

● Grain Belt failed to show that its proposed line is needed in Missouri.

● Grain Belt failed to show that its proposed line is economically feasible.

● The proposed line is not the least-cost alternative for meeting Missouri’s future energy needs.

● Grain Belt failed to demonstrate that its proposed line promotes the public interest.

● Grain Belt failed to show that its proposed line is necessary or convenient for the public service of the people in Missouri.

Jennifer Gatrel, Block Grain Belt Express- http://blockgbemo.com

The Caldwell County News

101 South Davis
P.O. Box 218
Hamilton, MO 64644
Phone: 816-583-2116
news@mycaldwellcounty.com

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