Missouri to reject Grain Belt Express transmission project application

transmission lines jul 6 elp

The Missouri Public Service Commission, in an order to be effective on July 22, said it will direct its secretary to reject the application by Clean Line Energy Partners’ Grain Belt Express Clean Line application – filed on June 30 – for a certificate of convenience and necessity in relation to the company’s proposed Grain Belt Express Clean Line project.

As noted on the company’s website, the estimated $2 billion project is a nearly 780-mile overhead, direct current transmission line that will deliver wind energy from western Kansas to utilities and customers in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and neighboring states.

As noted in the order, before filing its application, Grain Belt Express did not file the “60-day notice” required by a PSC rule that states that any regulated entity that intends to file a case likely to be a contested case is to file a notice with the commission’s secretary at least 60 days prior to filing such case; such notice is to detail the type of case and issues likely to be before the commission.

The PSC on July 1 issued an order requiring Grain Belt Express to show cause why its application should not be dismissed for failure to comply with the rule. Grain Belt Express responded that same day, stating that the rule is not applicable because Grain Belt Express is not a regulated entity, or in the alternative, that the rule should be waived for good cause because it believed in good faith that it was not required to file a 60-day notice, the PSC added.

A commission rule requires the commission’s secretary to reject filings that are not in compliance, the PSC said, adding that the purpose of that rule is to promote the public trust in the PSC by regulating communications between the PSC and potential parties to contested cases. While the term “regulated entity” is not defined in the rule, it is most reasonable to infer that a regulated entity is simply one that is subject to the authority of the PSC, as is any entity that asks the PSC for permission to build transmission in Missouri, the PSC said.

To interpret that term in such a way as to exempt Grain Belt Express from that section of the rule would subvert the section’s purpose by allowing some entities to avoid the protections of the notice requirement based solely on whether they have previously received a certificate from the PSC, the PSC said.

“The commission finds that the rule does apply to Grain Belt,” the PSC said. “Furthermore, waiver of the rule is not appropriate in these circumstances. Grain Belt was evidently well aware of the requirements of the regulation as it filed a 60-day notice in its previous application proceeding, File No. EA-2014-0207, which was a highly contentious case involving many parties regarding a similar request for a certificate of convenience and necessity.”

The PSC said that Grain Belt Express Clean Line’s request for a waiver is denied, and that the company may file a notice in compliance with a PSC rule and, subsequently, re-file its application.

In a statement provided to TransmissionHub by Clean Line Energy on July 15, Mark Lawlor, director of development, Clean Line Energy, noted that the order is a procedural formality.

“The order presents a slight delay in our filing and has no effect on the substance of our application with the Missouri Public Service Commission,” Lawlor said, adding that the notice has been filed, and the company looks forward to the PSC's review of the company’s application.

“Over the last year, we have made tremendous progress in developing the Grain Belt Express Clean Line so that it will benefit Missourians for years to come,” he said. “The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will provide power to Missouri municipal utilities across the state, saving millions of dollars each year for Missouri ratepayers. We look forward to being able to provide long-term benefits to Missouri consumers.”

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