Purchase photos

Complaints few at transmission line meeting

8/22/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

RUSSELL -- Informally, there were plenty of questions about the need for a massive power line stretching from Spearville to northeast Kansas.

There also were questions about the process used to select the route for what is known as the Grain Belt Express line, which meanders northeast until it reaches Barton County, then heads north through Russell and Osborne counties. From there, the line essentially heads east into Missouri.

The 600,000 volts of electricity the line will carry won't be available in Kansas -- even though it's designed to carry power from as-yet-constructed Kansas wind farms. Instead, the power will be destined for Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, based on a plan by Houston-based developer Clean Line Energy Partners LLC.

Despite the apparent opposition during the informal side of the meeting, when a Kansas Corporation Commission public hearing Tuesday turned formal, with witnesses being sworn in and a court reporter taking down every word, most of the comments turned favorable.

But those favorable comments came from either wind farm developers or people in the power line business who stand to gain if the line is built and products are purchased.

A Cawker City man opposed the project outright, telling the three-member KCC he didn't want the line running through his fourth-generation farm.

He was the only one who carried on a thread from the informal session -- moderated by KCC Chairman Mark Sievers even though members aren't allowed to consider what was said -- questioning the need for the line and the process used to determine its route.

The Cawker City man also took aim at Gov. Sam Brownback.

"Gov. Brownback will not meet with us because we are opposed to Clean Line Energy's line," he said.

While not outright expressing opposition to the line, Russell attorney Dennis Davidson voiced concerns with easements and the effect it would have on oil and gas.

Clean Line co-founder and President Michael Skelly earlier said oil drilling wouldn't be allowed within the 150-foot-wide easement, and drillers would either have to employ directional drilling or simply move away from the lines.

During his formal testimony, Davidson said it's a concern to move any distance away from the ideal spot identified by seismic testing for oil.

As well, the easements for the line, he said, would attempt to supersede leases -- without compensation -- already granting oil producers the right to drill anywhere on a piece of property.

A decision on the line's route must be made by the KCC by Nov. 12. Despite all that, the KCC already has determined the line is in the public interest, so it's only looking at where the line will go.