Become informed on Clean Line Energy proposal

Become informed on Clean Line Energy proposal

I’ve been keeping a loose eye on the Clean Line Energy (CLE) Company based out of Texas for the last few years. Some family in northern Illinois is in opposition of their proposed Rock Island Line project. I was aware of a possible project in central Illinois, but thought it would go north of me so it was not an immediate concern. Conveniently, the week after elections, CLE came out with a map of a proposed high voltage direct current power line right over my house. Nice.

Now I regret trying to avoid family and politics, or I would be fully informed on the issue. Fortunately for me and my neighbors, it’s not too late. The six step process leading to state approval of the project has just begun.

The CLE’s Grain Belt Express (GBE) line is going to be heard a lot in the upcoming months, maybe years. This is a private company that is taking on several large scale energy projects, and one is the GBE.

The line will cross the Mississippi River near Pittsfield and continue east to Indiana. The majority of power is to be carried farther east. Four to seven steel monopole or lattice structures, 110 to 140 feet tall, will be erected each mile.

The line will be part of a proposed 750 mile HVDC power transmission line carrying wind energy from an in-the-works wind farm in Kansas to “Missouri, Illinois and surrounding states.” The nearest substation contributing power to Illinois’s grid is to be in Sullivan, Ind., along the Illinois border. Our current grid uses Alternating Current rather than Direct Current.

According to GBE’s website, a final route for their interstate power lines will go through Macoupin County. “Following the public meetings, the number of potential routes will be reduced based on feedback received during the public meetings and other sources of information. Ultimately, the project will require a 150-200 foot wide right-of-way, approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission.” (Take note – this is our chance to voice initial favor or disfavor of the project).

The project touts several positive points for communities in their path. Jobs, increased tax revenue, cheaper power and aiding Illinois in meeting their renewable portfolio standard.

Communities in the path of the sister project my family up north is concerned with, the RICL, and our Missouri neighbors to the west that could be part of the GBE line have not been impressed by these possible benefits.

The GBE plans to “create thousands of temporary jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs.” I feel we need to ensure they are local jobs in Macoupin County. The jobs cited on their website are mostly manufacturing the lines, poles and maintenance of the wind farm; neither to my knowledge is in Illinois, much less Macoupin County. Keep in mind HVDC transmission line construction is a highly specialized industry. It is likely most labor and materials would be brought in.

Of course, taxes are involved. GBE cites a positive point to their project is increased tax revenue for the community. I am curious as to what sort of taxes and for how long. This could arguably be the most important point in this endeavor. More money for our schools and community? That would be nice. More importantly though, what will the line’s affect on property values be. These transmission lines will likely decrease property values. Decreased property values mean decreased property tax revenue meaning fewer funds for community needs.

CLE states they will compensate landowners who voluntarily agree to their easement agreements with “an up-front payment or annual structure payment for each structure located on the landowner’s property.” No dollar amount is listed on their website. They do state the land can still be used for farming, livestock or “…any other activities that do not interfere with the operation of the line.” Any talk of eminent domain at this point is a scare tactic.

Construction of the lines on open farmland would be pretty straightforward. I am curious of the plan for timbered areas. Looking at Missouri’s opponents, their information states, “wooded areas would be completely removed within the easement…”

Competitive energy rates for home use power to Illinois residents, as I stated above, seems to be limited at this time.

For me, the bottom line will be, is it going to better my life? My neighbors? My school? My communities? It doesn’t seem so. Will it better the earth? Maybe. Will it better electricity prices for folks east of us? Maybe. Will it give jobs to Kansas folks? Looks like it. Is this a step towards cleaner power for the masses? Maybe. Will welcoming this power project in Macoupin County provide us with some “grid-pro-quo” down the road? Maybe.

I have a lot of questions, and I plan on attending the one and only short public meeting, to be held Dec. 3 from 7 to 10 a.m. at Lake Williamson Christian Center. I hope to see you all there so we can find out if this is a good move for our community or not.

By Kathleen Clark