For the second time in three years, a massive electricity line project is back in Missouri seeking approval.
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line would connect Kansas wind turbines to the eastern states with an 800-mile-long overhead transmission line. The company running the $2 billion project says it has approvals from three of the four states in its path, only Missouri stands in the way.
The transmission line is supported by utility companies and unlikely bedfellows such as the Sierra Club and Walmart.
However farmers and ranchers, supported by local politicians, strongly oppose it. Russell Pisciotta owns a cattle ranch near the proposed line in Caldwell County and leads the group Block Grain Belt Express. He's spent several years opposing the scheme and claims Missouri doesn’t need it.
“We have the potential of generating 40 percent of our needs with just rooftop solar and parking lot solar which is much more reliable than wind anyway," says Pisciotta.
Farmers are also concerned about their property rights being infringed. "There's not enough benefit to the state to justify the taking to what would amount to over 5,000 acres in Missouri alone, for private use, by a private company, basically just to profit," says Pisciotta.
Farmers also doubt much of the energy would be used in Missouri and claim it will go to eastern states, where it could fetch higher prices.
The director of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line, Mark Lawlor, assures concerned Missouri farmers along the route that their private property rights are not in danger. Lawlor also says the state needs this source of clean energy
“The cost to build wind energy or other renewables in Missouri is high," he says. "As a result, it makes more sense to get wind from lower cost areas, where there’s a robust resource and the cost of that electricity is much lower, like western Kansas.”
The project's promoters say the line will deliver low cost energy to 1.6 million homes, including in Missouri.
Missouri’s Public Service Commission is holding March hearings before deciding whether to approve the project.
Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.