Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
GRAIN BELT EXPRESS CLEAN LINE, LLC; MISSOURI JOINT MUNICIPAL ELECTRIC UTILITY COMMISSION; AND MISSOURI LANDOWNERS ALLIANCE, Appellants,
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, Respondent IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF GRAIN BELT EXPRESS CLEAN LINE, LLC FOR A CERTIFICATE OF CONVENIENCE AND NECESSITY AUTHORIZING IT TO CONSTRUCT, OWN, OPERATE, CONTROL, MANAGE, AND MAINTAIN A HIGH VOLTAGE, DIRECT CURRENT TRANSMISSION LINE AND AN ASSOCIATED CONVERTER STATION PROVIDING AN INTERCONNECTION ON THE MAYWOOD-MONTGOMERY 345 KV TRANSMISSION LINE.
from the Public Service Commission
P. Page, Presiding Judge.
Belt Express Clean Line, LLC ("Grain Belt"), and
the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission
("MJMEUC") appeal the report and order issued by
the Public Service Commission of the State of Missouri
("Commission") denying Grain Belt's application
for a certificate of convenience and necessity
("CCN") to construct and maintain an interstate
electrical line and associated facilities. In addition,
although it prevailed before the Commission, Missouri
Landowner's Alliance ("MLA") also filed a
separate appeal of the Commission's order.
legal issue presented in this matter is simple even though
the underlying project is incredibly complex involving
multiple states, counties, and hundreds of miles of potential
construction, as well as economic and environmental
implications. In August 2016, Grain Belt filed an application
for a certificate of convenience and necessity with the
Commission pursuant to Section 393.170.1 RSMo (2016),
CSR 240-2.060, and 4 CSR 240-3.105(1)(B). Grain Belt sought
permission from the Commission to construct, own, operate,
control, manage, and maintain a high voltage direct current
transmission line and associated facilities. The Commission
held public hearings in Ralls and Monroe counties during
which evidence was presented regarding the scope of the
proposed project. The overhead, multi-terminal line would
span over 700 miles across three states. The project would
cross 206 miles through the eight Missouri counties of
Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Clinton, Monroe,
Randolph, and Ralls. The line would deliver 500 megawatts of
wind-generated electricity from western Kansas to customers
Commission subsequently issued its report and order, deciding
it could not lawfully issue a CCN to Grain Belt without
consent from each county affected because it was bound by the
decision of the Western District in Matter of Ameren
Transmission Co. of Illinois, 523 S.W.3d 21 (Mo. App.
W.D. 2017) ("ATXI"). In a concurring
opinion joined by Commissioners Hall, Kenney, Rupp, and
Coleman, the Commission disagreed with the Western
District's opinion in ATXI, but believed it to
be binding precedent upon their decision, mandating denial of
Grain Belt's CCN. The present appeal followed.
Belt presents three points on appeal, all of which contend
the Commission erred in denying Grain Belt's application
for a CCN pursuant to Section 393.170.1 based upon the
decision in ATXI. We agree and decline to follow the
Western District's interpretation of Section 393.170.
Therefore, we consider all three points together.
to Section 386.510, our review of the Commission's order
is two-pronged. First, we determine whether the order is
lawful. Second, if lawful, we consider whether the order is
reasonable. The burden of showing the order is unlawful or
unreasonable rests with the appellant. Matter of
Application of KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations
Company, 515 S.W.3d 754, 758 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016).
Whether the Commission's decision is lawful is determined
by whether statutory authority exists for its issuance.
Id. We review all legal issues de novo.
Id. Neither convenience nor necessity is a proper
consideration for this court in determining whether the
Commission's decision is authorized by statute. State
ex rel. Cass County v. Public Service Commission, 259
S.W.3d 544, 548 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008). As previously noted,
MLA and MJMEUC each filed appellate briefs asserting several
points and sub-points on appeal relating to the
reasonableness of the Commission's order. However, our
review as to the lawfulness of the Commission's order is
dispositive; therefore, we do not reach the question of
reasonableness in this case.
Public Service Commission
Missouri Public Service Commission was created by Section
386.040 and only has such powers as expressly conferred upon
it by statute. State ex rel. Harline v. Public Service
Commission, 343 S.W.2d 177, 181 (Mo. App. K.C. 1960).
The Commission's powers are purely regulatory.
Id. The primary purpose of the Commission is to
promote public welfare. The enabling statutes permit the
Commission to enact regulations to correct a public
utility's abuse of any property right, rather than direct
its use. Id. The Commission must balance the
interests of the general public as well as the interests of
customers and investors of a regulated utility on a statewide
basis and not consider the utility's operating area in
isolation. State ex rel. Cass County, 259 S.W.3d at
II.Two Distinct Certificates of Convenience and