This photo illustration shows what Clean Line transmission projects would look like after construction. Credit: Clean Line Energy Partners

©2016 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Jeffrey Tomich

Missouri regulators dealt merchant transmission developer Clean Line Energy Partners LLC another small setback in its bid to win approval for the $2 billion Grain Belt Express project by rejecting the application on procedural grounds.

The Public Service Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to turn away the application because the company didn’t provide advance notice.

Missouri regulations require regulated entities to submit a 60-day advance notice before filing what is expected to be a contested case. Parties can also request a waiver of the notice filing.

Clean Line said in a filing July 1 that it isn’t required to submit the advance notice because it isn’t presently a regulated entity in Missouri. Alternatively, the company said, the rule should be waived because it believed in good faith that it wasn’t required to make the filing.

But in yesterday’s order, the PSC said it is “reasonable to infer” that Clean Line is subject to the advance notice rule because it is seeking to build a transmission project in Missouri. The commission also denied the waiver request.

The company “was evidently well aware of the requirements of the regulation as it filed a 60-day notice in its previous application proceeding … which was a highly contentious case involving many parties regarding a similar request,” the order said.

The commission said, however, that it will consider a future request to waive the advance notice requirement because it considers the June 29 application filed by Clean Line as effectively serving the same purpose.

Indeed, within hours of the commission’s order, Clean Line formally filed advance notice and a request for a partial waiver allowing it to refile its application and testimony on Aug. 29.

Clean Line spokeswoman Allison Copple said the PSC’s decision yesterday to reject the application “doesn’t change the substance of our application.”

However, opponents who had called on the PSC to reject the application because of the 60-day rule said the two-month delay is important because it buys them time.

“We absolutely need the time to again prepare our resources to defend our property rights,” said Jennifer Gatrel, a spokeswoman for Block Grain Belt Express.

Yesterday’s PSC decision is the latest speed bump for Clean Line in its effort to win regulatory approval for the 780-mile direct-current, high-voltage transmission line from rural southwest Kansas to the Illinois-Indiana border.

The line would deliver 3,500 megawatts to the PJM Interconnection market covering parts of 13 states in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. It would also deliver 500 MW through a converter station in eastern Missouri.

Clean Line already has regulatory approvals in Kansas, Illinois and Indiana, leaving Missouri as the only state utility commission yet to approve it.

Last summer, the PSC denied Clean Line permission to build the 206-mile segment of the line across the state by a 3-2 vote after the majority concluded the company didn’t satisfy the criteria for approval (EnergyWire, July 2).

In recent weeks, however, Clean Line has secured endorsements from Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. More importantly, a public power agency representing dozens of Missouri municipal utilities agreed to buy long-term transmission service on the project for up to 25 years if it is built (EnergyWire, June 30).

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