JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign legislation Saturday that greenlights a controversial wind-powered electric transmission line through northern Missouri.
The proposed new law is the result of an elaborate compromise among rural lawmakers that will allow the $2 billion Grain Belt Express to go ahead, while putting up barriers for any similar projects in the future.
For years, rural lawmakers and farmer groups worked to block the 4,000 megawatt project worth an estimated $2 billion.
Below Internal Bill 2005, private companies such as the one building the line would face greater regulatory hurdles for using eminent domain to acquire easements to build on the properties of landowners who are unwilling to negotiate a price for their land. Companies would also have to pay a higher price for the land they seek.
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Key to its passage in the House and Senate was language that made it clear that the proposed law only affects future projects, not Grain Belt, which is being built by Chicago-based Invenergy Transmission.
Although they were unable to stop Grain Belt, farmer groups applauded the legislation.
“Without this bill, we can expect that the rights of landowners will continue to be violated. The power grid was largely built on the backs of farmers, whether or not they wanted to sell their land. It is high time to bring fairness and common sense to the process,” Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins and Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering said in a joint statement.
The high-voltage power line would carry wind power from Kansas through Missouri and Illinois before connecting to an Indiana power grid that serves eastern states.
Proponents say the project will create thousands of construction jobs, bring millions of dollars in property taxes to local governments, and provide clean energy and lower rates to dozens of Missouri towns. Additionally, they said, Grain Belt in 2019 was granted eminent domain rights by the Missouri Public Service Commission. And, court cases had confirmed the decision.
Through Thursday, Grain Belt Express has filed 22 eminent domain lawsuits in Missouri and Kansas. Four of them have already reached a voluntary settlement and four have received sentencing orders.
Of the 1,700 plots of land needed, Grain Belt acquired about 1,250.
Grain Belt Express pays landowners 110% of the market value of the land. Additionally, the company pays property owners $18,000 for each transmission structure located on their property, which is not typical for transmission projects in Missouri.
As an added benefit, Invenergy says it will use the power lines to also offer broadband service that could bring improved internet service to more than one million rural Missourians, including 250,000 within 50 miles of the power line. transmission.
A Grain Belt spokeswoman said Thursday the company could do even more.
“While this law does not apply retroactively to Grain Belt Express, we are evaluating opportunities for the project to provide significantly more power and benefits to the State of Missouri, as leaders have requested,” said said Dia Kuykendall, director of public affairs for Grain Belt. .
Parson, who runs a beef operation on his Bolivar farm, is expected to sign the measure during an event at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia.
Posted at 1:45 p.m. Thursday, June 9.