Legislation that is aimed at preventing the Grain Belt Express project from using eminent domain across northern Missouri is now heading to the state Senate in Jefferson City.
The Missouri House voted 115-35 on Thursday to give final approval to legislation from State Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, which says no private entity has the power of eminent domain to build above-ground merchant lines.
“Clean Line doesn’t exist anymore, they’re going out of business,” Hansen tells House colleagues. “They can’t afford to do the project, but they still got the certificate.”
Hansen’s bill is House Bill 1062.
The House’s vote would essentially overrule the March Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision to grant Grain Belt a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN). The PSC determined there is a need for the service and that the service promotes the public interest.
The PSC announced in March that it’s approved Grain Belt’s request to build, own and manage a high-voltage transmission line across eight northern Missouri counties.
Those counties are Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls.
State Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, voted against Hansen’s bill, saying she supports the PSC’s decision and that northern Missouri property owners would be treated fairly by Grain Belt.
McCreery says lawmakers should let the process play out.
“Eminent domain is just a tool in the toolbox, nobody wants to go down that path,” says McCreery. “I believe that there is plenty of financial funding available to treat property owners fairly.”
She says the CCN would go into effect on Good Friday.
McCreery tells House colleagues the Grain Belt project would involve about nine acres of farmland, adding that the project would generate $7 million annually in property taxes to Missouri political subdivisions.
McCreery also says the project would benefit the greater good of Missouri.
But the state’s major farm commodity groups disagree. The Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Corn Growers Association and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association are praising the House’s vote.
The commodity groups were involved in Tuesday’s rally in Jefferson City, where about 500 farmers and landowners from across north Missouri packed the Statehouse in support of Hansen’s bill.
“And that’s what I’m trying to do (with the bill) is saying that this private company using a high-powered merchant line doesn’t have the right to eminent domain to cross our agricultural land or any other land in the future in our state,” Hansen says.
Hansen’s legislation moved through the House quickly, after being introduced on February 26 in response to the Grain Belt project.
Other supporters of the bill say less than 12 percent of the Grain Belt’s electricity would be sold to Missouri consumers.
There’s no word on when the Senate will consider the bill. It would start in a Senate committee.
The 2019 session ends on May 17.
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