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RICL: Keep private or make public?

Published: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 3:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 9:09 a.m. CDT

Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) is a private company intending to build a high voltage transmission line through Iowa and Illinois. It’s likely you’ve noticed the white “Block RICL” signs along local roadways. Its opposition has become a heated topic among agriculturalists, landowners, legal professionals and concerned citizens. 

First consider the disadvantage to Illinois’ utility customers. The minimal power that will be sold to Illinois customers will be sold at projected rate 50 percent higher than existing prices. Illinois has gone to great lengths to build a renewable energy infrastructure: Wind turbines, natural gas power plants and hydroelectric power make up a safe and reliable system.

A public utility company should be transparent to the stakeholders. Rock Island Clean Line has been very deceiving and misinforming the public. For example, they have been trying to get landowners and county governments to sign contracts and agreements before the project has approval. They have also filed motions to hide information. Private energy companies, like Enron, were focused on hiding information by calling its plans “confidential” or “proprietary.” RICL is following suit. We do not want another energy company like Enron with a hidden agenda to benefit only themselves.

Probably the most negatively affected are the landowners. By gaining public utility status, RICL is able to use the power of eminent domain. Even more alarming, with eminent domain on their side, RICL can take land away from anyone. That means businesses and even our homes can be taken against our will. For most landowners, land provides a career, a means of survival, and productivity to their business. Clearly, taking 12,000 acres out of production for the benefit of a few wealthy investors is a detriment to the public. 

Michael Skelly, Clean Line CEO, stated one of RICL’s goals is to build a transmission line “in the most cost effective way possible.” Instead of using existing utility easements, they have chosen the cheaper, easier way of cutting through our local farmland and businesses. Many of your neighbors, including our local state legislators, agree the power of eminent domain should not be used. Setting a precedent and opening the door for any wealthy investor with a completely unnecessary project to take away land from those who have worked generations to keep it is simply absurd. 

It is crucial we stop this inevitably harmful project from affecting our state and local communities. Please encourage local, county and state leaders to stop this private, for-profit corporation from proceeding. Support the agricultural businesses that contribute billions of dollars to our local economies and provide thousands of dollars to our local governments through property taxes. Become educated and discover the impact of this project. Make sure your voice is heard; do not let local businesses suffer so that a few wealthy, out of state individuals can make millions at our expense.

Jeff Landers

Mendota

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