On March 20, 2019 the Missouri Public Service Commission (“MPSC”) granted a certificate of convenience and necessity (“CCN”) to Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC (“Grain Belt”) for a $2.35 billion, 780-mile, 600 kV transmission line that is planned to deliver wind-generated electricity from western Kansas to customers in both MISO and PJM. While the MPSC previously denied Grain Belt’s application for a CCN in a 2015 decision that cited burdens to affected landowners, its March 20 order concludes that “the broad economic, environmental, and other benefits of the Project to the entire state of Missouri outweigh the interests of the individual landowners,” whose concerns would be “addressed through carefully considered conditions placed on the CCN.”

As proposed, the Grain Belt Express project would span from eastern Kansas through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, and will deliver power at interconnection points within MISO and PJM.  The project is to be funded, constructed and operated by Invenergy Transmission, LLC, which will recover its costs by selling transmission service to wind generators and load serving entities that use the line. The project has been seeking approval from the MPSC since 2014.  Following the MPSC’s denial of Grain Belt’s CCN application in 2015, the project filed another CCN application in 2016.  The MPSC again denied Grain Belt’s application in an August 2017 order concluding that it lacked statutory authority to issue the CCN because Grain Belt had not obtained the required pre-approval from those Missouri counties that would be impacted by the project.  On appeal, the Supreme Court of Missouri concluded that the MPSC had erred in finding that it could not lawfully grant a CCN to Grain Belt, and remanded the case back to the MPSC.

The MPSC’s March 20 order on remand grants the Grain Belt a CCN, and finds that “[t]he Project is needed primarily because of the benefits to [the Missouri Joint Municipal Eclectic Utility Commission] and its customers, who have committed to purchase 136 MW of wind power” using the line’s transmission service.  While the MPSC acknowledged continued opposition to the project from Missouri landowners, it held that negative impacts of the project would be mitigated by protocols created to protect landowners, compensation payments, a binding arbitration option for easement negotiations, a decommissioning fund to pay for wind-up activities in the event that the line is retired from service, and an agricultural impact mitigation protocol to minimize negative agricultural impacts.  The MPSC concluded:

There can be no debate that our energy future will require more diversity in energy resources, particularly renewable resources.  We are witnessing a worldwide, long-term and comprehensive movement towards renewable energy in general and wind energy specifically.  Wind energy provides great promise as a source for affordable, reliable, safe and environmentally-friendly energy.  The Grain Belt Project will facilitate this movement in Missouri, will thereby benefit Missouri citizens, and is, therefore, in the public interest.

The MPSC’s 2019 order granting Grain Belt’s application is available here.