Eminent Domain Issue of Grain Belt Express

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Supporters for Missouri senate house bill number 1062 argue that only 12 percent of power would go through the lines of Missouri’s consumers (Erikson). The house bill number 1062 refers to the proposal of letting a company called Invenergy create transmission lines through private property. Using cost-benefit analysis, one can see the Grain Belt Express ought to be altered because of the great concern of property rights, health, and the costs.

Invenergy has been proposing for the last ten years to Missouri’s senate that Missouri ought to turn to more clean energy, specifically focusing only wind energy. The proposal has been named the Grain Belt Express. Transmission lines are needed for the project to create cleaner air. However, the problem with creating these transmission lines is that it would debately take away some personal liberties, such as property, and it would be given to the private company to build above ground power lines for the public’s use. In order for the greater good to occur, the bill should be altered. One can do this by weighing the pros and cons and finding a more practical solution than eminent domain.

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Starting with the economic benefits of bill number 1062, according to the Public Service Commissions (PSC), the commission unanimously granted the Grain Belt Express “a certificate of convenience and necessity.” This means PSC found that it is a needed project to improve the quality of life of Missouri Citizens. The project of Invenergy, as part of the agreement, will deliver lower costing energy that is renewable electricity to businesses. It will potentially be saving 239 non-profit municipal utilities in Missouri over 10 million dollars. If that is not enough, a major benefit of the Grain Belt Express is if implanted, then it would power 1.6 million households inside of Missouri. Even just the construction of this project would instantly create over 5,000 construction jobs and over 500 permanent jobs. There would also be a need to create more jobs for repairs of the wind turbines for when the project finishes in 2022. (Casey). “Two cents a kilowatt-hour an entire third cheaper for a community with a 20 percent poverty rate. That’s substantial. In addition, a 25-year contract, we’re locked in which means we can do capital planning, we can reserve planning. We’re not exposed to the risk of an open and volatile market.” says Stephen Franke, a businessman from Hannibal Missouri (Byrd). Missouri Senate’s house bill number 1062 would generate 246 million dollars in new personal income. This project would bring up the new domestic product to 476 million dollars. “In subsequent years of operations, from year 2022 onward, landowner payments of $1.23 million for transmission line structures and on-going operation/maintenance spending of $5 million for those facilities is expected.” according to a brief about the Grain Belt Express. (“Grain Belt Express Economic Brief”). Invenrgy has built more than 140 sustainable projects in the world and all have been successful, so most likely would be as successful in Missouri (Chen).

Moving on to more benefits, one can also consider the environmental impacts. Using wind turbines would reduce water reductions (by hydropower electricity) by just over four billion dollars per year. The Grain Belt Express would lower carbon dioxide (co2) emissions by 10 million tons per year. This highly toxic pollution would be equal to having two million cars away from roads each year. If this is not enough lowering of pollution, which one can never stop lowering, the project would reduce the following: sulfur dioxide by 16 thousand tons per year, nitrogen oxide by six thousand tons per year, and mercury pollution by 100 pounds per year (Casey). This cleaner energy would supposedly over the next 25 years create a greener and cleaner Missouri.

Now one must analyze the cons. The first issue at hand is the most controversial cause of why Missouri Senate’s house bill number 1062 has taken ten years to pass. In order for the Grain Belt Express to be constructed, transmissions lines have to be built. Where is a question one may ask. The answer to one’s question is that it would have to go through private property. Invenergy’s plan is to run the transmission lines through different counties in Missouri. These transmission lines will run through many farms ruining their agriculture. Invenergy claims that they would prefer not to use eminent domain. However, many suspect this is not true. Invenergy has not taken many steps to negotiate with landowners. Invenergy needs 835 easements and currently has 35. These pieces of land are spread mostly through eight counties in Missouri. However, many seemed to be opposed to giving up land. Some said it was due to heritage and keeping the land that had been in their families for generations. Others said it was just not wanting to ruin the land's beauty. It would also take away land value. Many Missouri citizens appear to be against for a variety of reasons all dealing with their land. For example, Buchanan county in Missouri had 90 percent of commissioners against the bill and only ten percent were for it. According to Representative Mccreery, D-St. Louis, “I think that this is an example of being able to use eminent domain as one of the tools in the toolbox in order to accomplish a greater good.” (Nickens). This is a slight contradiction on the affirmation side of the bill. They claimed to be almost against eminent domain, but then felt that it was in the people’s best interest. However, an idea to be brought onto the table is that if it were truly in the people’s best interest, would they not be falling on the affirmation side in support of bill number 1062? Bill number 1062 cannot be an interest if the people are rejecting the idea of the Grain Belt Express.

Another concern for passing Missouri’s house bill number 1062 is health. Living near a very high voltage DC power line is dangerous. The Environmental Protection Agency identifies power lines as a major source of electric and magnetic radiation. The previous statement may sound unimpactful; however, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has seen multiple times a link between electric and magnetic fields and leukemia (Brian, et al).

In order to get a vivid answer on how to properly alter bill number 1062, one must switch back to the affirmation side of this bill. One point that was brought up about rejecting a new kind of energy has already happened. Seeming that history tends to repeat itself, it did not come to much surprise that there were people against it. In the Rural Electrification during the 1920’s, many farmers were slow and hesitant to have this new kind of energy (Bradley). By the end of the 1930, electricity found its way to only about ten percent of American farms (Novak). The affirmation believes many are skeptical because of the simple fact of this energy being new and they are afraid it will not be beneficial. However, as stated earlier, Invenergy has 140 successful projects and it has many economic and environmental beneficial impacts.

Another small point affirmation tends to bring up is centered around land. While affirmation has not made any responses about issues about keeping heritage, the side of affirmation does try to rebuttal lowering land value. They claim that it would take away land value by two percent to nine percent, but it would most likely rise back up to its normal value after a few years (Jackson and Pitts pp 258). A survey was conducted which concluded that 72 percent of real estate professionals, said that “transmission lines did not affect sale prices on homes” (Jackson and Pitts pp 242). One ought to assume the con’s side worries about land value should fade away since the value of the land will return to normal.

The main problems of the Grain Belt Express are centered around heritage, the risk of leukemia, and finally eminent domain. The first thought to come to mind is the age of the heritage. A solution to this particular problem would be to give protection to farms that go back over three generations. The risk of leukemia can not be taken away; however, one can make a rule that Invenergy can not build implement a transmission life within 700 feet of a house. This is a safe distance. (Electric and Magnetic Fields and Health). While many are upset about the eminent domain issue, it is deemed constitutional by the fifth amendment stating “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”. It is because the benefits far outweigh the negatives and was deemed as “a certificate of convenience and necessity” by Public Service Commissions, the argument of abuse of eminent domain falls. Therefore, the solution is simply this: Invenergy may use eminent domain granted by the government of Missouri if it follows the guidelines. The guide lines being it may not take land due to being part of heritage if the heritage goes back 3 generations. Invenergy must build all structures at least 700 feet away from any household. For compensation Invenergy must give the landowners twice as much of what the land originally cost.

By looking at the negatives and positives of Missouri House bill number 1062, one could see that the bill needs to be amended due to concern of land and health risks. Bringing in the Grain Belt Express created by the Chicago-based Energy would create thousands of jobs and substantially decrease pollution. Overall, although there are some costs of the bill, with the amended bill in place it would leave Missouri more environmentally and economically stable with no debate.

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