mostlycloudy
Sunday May 24th, 2015 3:31PM

Wind power line proposal irks some Midwest farmers

By The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The windy plains of Kansas could be a treasure trove in the nation's effort to harness clean energy, but a major proposal to move wind-generated electricity eastward is running into a roadblock: Farmers who don't want high-power transmission lines on their land.

Clean Line Energy Partners wants to spend $2.2 billion to build a 750-mile-long high-voltage overhead transmission line. Towers 110 to 150 feet tall, 4-6 per mile, would carry lines with power generated by Kansas' modernistic windmill turbines through sparsely populated northern Missouri, through the cornfields of Illinois and to a substation in Sullivan, Ind. The exact route has not been finalized.

The idea is supported by environmental groups who say it is an opportunity to take a big step forward for an energy source that could reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and cut air pollution. Clean Line has four other transmission line projects in the works in the West and Midwest.

All five still require regulatory approval. If all goes right, the Kansas-to-Indiana line - called the Green Belt Express Clean Line - could be operational by 2018, said Mark Lawlor, director of development for Clean Line.

"There are a whole host of wind developers who are ready to go but they don't have the ability to transmit the power," Lawlor said. "But like an oil or gas field that's remotely located, you've got to find a way to get that resource to market."

Clean Line says the project will be an economic boon, with all four states seeing new jobs for construction and local companies providing things like parts and concrete. Lawlor said consumers would benefit, too, by the new source of power that would drive down electricity costs.

Kansas figures to benefit the most. Clean Line projects that more than $7 billion of new wind projects will be needed to meet demand created by the line, potentially creating thousands of new jobs in Kansas and making the state a hub of wind energy.

Randi Tveitaraas Jack, energy coordinator for the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the agency doesn't endorse individual projects, but that in general, "We're very supportive of the wind industry in Kansas and continued growth, and transmission is an important piece of that."

Both the property owner and the counties where the towers would be built stand to make money. A typical county could see $800,000 annually in property taxes, Lawlor said.

As for property owners, compensation will depend on how much easement is needed, the value of the land and other factors. Lawlor gave an example of an easement stretching half a mile across land valued at $5,000 an acre, housing two tower structures. The owner would get about $45,500 for the easement and a one-time payment of $18,000 for each structure - a total of $81,500. Owners could also opt for smaller annual payments for the structures.

Yet many landowners have organized in opposition to Clean Line. They worry about whether the towers and lines will reduce property values, get in the way of farming operations like crop-dusting and irrigation, and even create health risks for those living so close to high-voltage wires.

"This is some of our best ground," said Kent Dye, 56, who farms about 7,000 acres in northeast Missouri's Monroe County. "This line - there's no proven need for it. There are no contracts to provide power, no contracts to sell on the other end."

Then there are property rights issues. Clean Line filed an application with the Missouri Public Service Commission in January for approval to operate as a public utility, a move that would grant eminent domain rights. Similar approval would be needed in Illinois. Clean Line already operates as a public utility in Kansas and Indiana.

Many along the route worry that a private company could simply take over land that in some cases has been in families for generations.

"We have sacrificed everything for this land," said Jennifer Gatrel, 33, who, along with her husband, Jeff, farms a 430-acre cattle ranch in western Missouri. "We don't go on vacation. We don't go out to eat. Everything we have is tied up in this land. The idea that somebody can come in and take it from us is appalling and it goes against what it is to be an American."

Lawlor said the company prefers not to use eminent domain and wants to reach agreements with landowners. He also cited studies showing that power lines and towers have no effect on property values.

"When they sit down and talk to us and get the information about the reality of the project, I think we're succeeding in clearing the air," he said.

Not as far as Gatrel is concerned.

"There are already significant barriers to farming," Gatrel said. "This would be another major barrier."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 4 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 4 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by...
9:33PM ( 1 day ago )
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 1 month ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 1 month ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )