JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives gave initial approval of a bill Tuesday that could prevent construction of the Grain Belt Express.
This is the third year in a row that the House has taken similar action. Last year, progress on the bill was curtailed in part by the pandemic.
House Bill 527, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, states that “no entity shall have the power of eminent domain … for the purpose of constructing above-ground merchant lines.” The bill will have a final vote in the House before it moves to the Senate.
The Grain Belt Express would run 800 miles between Kansas and Indiana and include three converter stations, one of which would be in Missouri, according to the project’s site. Two hundred miles of the route would run through eight Missouri counties, delivering 500-megawatts of wind-generated power to certain cities and towns in the state’s electric grid, including Columbia.
“This is a private out-of-state company using eminent domain as a public utility and there is very little benefit from the state of Missouri,” Haffner said. “Only 6% of the power will be used here.”
Many other representatives also voiced their concern about the project using eminent domain to obtain land.
“We have gone from the concept of eminent domain as a last resort to one of convenience,” said Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon.
Supporters of the project have said it will generate revenue for some Missouri cities and will provide clean energy to those that have signed on.
Thirty-nine cities in Missouri have already contracted to take power from the transmission line, according to Rep. Bill Kidd, R-Buckner, chair of the House Utilities Committee.
Additionally, lawmakers discussed the potential for the Grain Belt to help prevent future energy crises like the one seen in Texas last week.
“As public policy makers, having a discussion about what we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen to the state of Missouri or other neighbors here in the Midwest, or the United States quite frankly, is a helpful discussion to have,” said Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis.
Fernando Narro contributed to this report.