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Illinois Farm Bureau votes to oppose RICL project

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Farm Bureau has been aggressively engaged while working on a project which is proposed to run right through northern Bureau County, affecting a large number of landowners, our members. For the past few years representatives have actively attended both public and private meetings to stay in the know about the proposed project.

For those of you who may not be aware, this proposed Rock Island Clean Line Energy project would consist of approximately 500 miles of overhead, high-voltage direct current transmission lines, transmitting up to 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota and terminating at a conversion station in Grundy County, Ill.

According to its website, www.rockislandcleanline.com, the project is owned by Clean Line Energy, which is a private company founded by Michael Skelly, who led the development efforts at Horizon Wind Energy. The company develops high voltage, long-haul transmission lines connecting the best renewable resources in North American to communities that need power.

On Oct. 29, the Farm Bureau co-hosted an informational meeting with other neighboring county Farm Bureaus in Hooppole in order to inform concerned landowners who might be impacted by the proposed project. At the meeting, Farm Bureau staff updated the crowd of close to 140 people about the status of the project and informed landowners of their legal rights while sharing information they should know before they consider signing an easement agreement if the project moves forward.

So, where is the project today? The private company is petitioning for an order granting Rock Island Clean Line LLC a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity pursuant to Section 8-406 of the Public Utilities Act as a Transmission Public Utility and to Construct, Operate and Maintain an Electric Transmission Line and Authorizing and Directing Rock Island Clean Line pursuant to Section 8-503 of the Public Utilities Act to Construct an Electric Transmission Line. If approved the company can proceed with plans for the project.

In October the Illinois Farm Bureau filed to intervene in the Clean Line case before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). Their main arguments in the ICC case are:

• Clean Line is a private entity and should be denied public utility status as the company requests.

• Clean Line should be denied eminent domain authority.

• If permitted to construct: the company should be required to use mono-pole structures, the company should build the transmission line adjacent to the Interstate 80 right-of-way or following property lines, rather than following a route that cuts diagonally across open farmland.

Given the concerns outlined above, and the strong opposition the proposed project has generated with farmland owners in Rock Island, Whiteside, Henry, Bureau, LaSalle and Grundy counties, the Illinois Farm Bureau Board voted to oppose the Rock Island Clean Line transmission line project and work to have the Illinois Commerce Commission deny the company’s petition to construct a transmission line in Illinois.

At their November board meeting, the Bureau County Farm Bureau voted to support the Illinois Farm Bureau position on RICL with the exception of following Interstate 80’s right of way. Farm Bureau continues to monitor the progress of the project.

Wondering what you can do? If you have a concern with the project, we strongly encourage you to submit public comment to the ICC. Contact the Bureau County Farm Bureau for more information or printed instructions on how you can post public comments to the docket.

Jill Frueh is the manager at the Bureau County Farm Bureau.

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