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Government, Politics & Issues

Fight Continues Over Eminent Domain For Utility Line Across Missouri

A map of the proposed Grain Belt Express Line that will transmit wind energy from western Kansas to parts of the Midwest and eastern U.S.
Clean Line Energy Partners LLC
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A map of the proposed Grain Belt Express Line that will transmit wind energy from western Kansas to parts of the Midwest and eastern U.S.

The Missouri Legislature is considering a law that would outlaw utility companies taking land through eminent domain, but the move is designed to block a specific project.

The Grain Belt Express is a private venture that would take wind generated energy from Kansas and move it east across Missouri to power customers.

The Missouri House passed a bill 123-33 last week that would make that project nearly impossible because landowners could refuse to sell and not be forced to by the government.

Iowa is considering a similar measure.

“We see that all the surrounding states are saying, hey, we don’t want to be a part of this,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill. “We have eight East Coast governors who say we don’t want your clean energy. So basically what’s happening here is that we have an electrical highway running through the heart of Missouri using agricultural land.”

Proponents of the Grain Belt Express have said it could be a good way to increase use of clean energy and avoid power disruptions like the one in February that left millions of Texans in the dark.

“Now more than ever, Missouri’s economy needs this billion-dollar project to proceed and families and businesses need the reliability and utility savings Grain Belt Express will deliver,” Beth Conley, spokesperson for Invenergy, the company developing the Grain Belt Express, said in a statement.

Haffner and other Grain Belt Express opponents said even the construction of the proposed transmission line will damage hundreds of acres of farmland.

“When you compact soil, you can rip it up with a chisel plow, you can work it to death, but in some cases it’s going to take years and years and years for that land to be productive again,” Haffner said.

The measure now goes to the Missouri Senate for debate.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

This story has been updated to correct which states were considering similar measures.

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