|A high-voltage transmission line passes through a wind farm near Ellsworth, Kan. A proposed high-voltage transmission line to carry electricity from Kansas wind farms to the eastern United States is facing opposition from landowners along the route. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)|
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Utilities Board has dealt another procedural setback to a company proposing a $2 billion transmission line to ship Iowa wind energy to customers in Illinois.
The board voted 3-0 on Monday to reject the third request by Clean Line Energy Partners to split the case into two separate hearings. The board stood by its earlier rulings stating that it will decide whether to approve the Rock Island Clean Line and whether to grant the use of eminent domain in a single hearing.
The company has said that approach means it has to invest tens of millions of dollars acquiring land while running the risk that regulators could later reject the line as not in the public interest. Groups representing union workers and wind energy supporters backed its latest request to split up the case, saying they were not interested in the property rights issues and only on the need for the line.
But the board again ruled that dividing the case would be inconvenient for landowners fighting the project, who would be forced to attend two hearings that would have some overlap.
The board is the last regulatory agency needed to sign off on the line, which the company says would produce enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes in the Midwest. But many Iowa landowners say the company isn't offering enough compensation to build on their property and should not be granted eminent domain.
The line would start in northwest Iowa and ship power produced by wind turbines 500 miles to a converter station near Chicago.
The company has only obtained voluntary agreements with about 15 percent of the affected property owners and has put on hold plans to obtain access to more land as it works through the procedural issues.
"We are reviewing the order handed down by the Iowa Utilities Board and are evaluating next steps to advance the project," said company executive Elizabeth Conley.
Illinois and the federal government have given their approval to the project.