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Missouri Landowners Alliance v. Public Service Commission

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

December 17, 2019

MISSOURI LANDOWNERS ALLIANCE, et al., Appellants,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, et al., Respondents.

Page 633

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Page 634

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Page 635

          Appeal from the Missouri Public Service Commission. EA-2016-0358.

         COUNSEL:

          For Christina Reichert, Show Me Concerned Landowners, Missouri Landowners Alliance, Charles Henke (Intervenor), Matthew Reichert (Intervenor), R. Kenneth Hutchinson (Intervenor), Randall Meyer (Intervenor), Roseanne Meyer (Intervenor), and Robyn Henke (Intervenor): Paul A. Agathen, Washington, MO.

          For Office of the Public Counsel: Marc Douglas Poston, Jefferson City, MO; For Clean Grid Alliance: Deirdre Kay Hirner, Jefferson City, MO; For Consumers Council of Missouri: John Bruce Coffman, St. Louis, MO, JOHN B. COFFMAN, LLC; For Engie North America Inc.: Terri Janean Pemberton, Topeka, KS, CAFER PEMBERTON LLC; For IBEW Local Union 2: and IBEW Local Union 53: Sherrie A. Hall, Emily Rebecca Perez, Co-Counsel, St. Louis, MO; For Missouri AFL-CIO: James Patrick Faul, St. Louis MO, HARNETT REYES-JONES, LLC; For Missouri Department of Economic Development: Michael Brendan Lanahan, Jefferson City, MO; For Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers: Lewis Robinson Mills, Jr. and Diana Marie Vuylsteke, Co-Counsel BRYAN CAVE LLP, St. Louis, MO; For Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission: Douglas Lee Healy, Springfield, MO, HEALY LAW OFFICES LLC, Penny M. Speake, Co-Counsel and Peggy Ann Whipple, Co-Counsel, Jefferson City, MO, HEALY LAW OFFICES LLC: For Missouri Retailers Association: Diana Marie Vuylsteke, St. Louis, BRYAN CAVE LLP; For Natural Resources Defense Council: Henry B. Robertson, St. Louis, MO, GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER; For Renew Missouri: Andrew James Linhares, St. Louis, MO and Timothy Janes Opitz Co-Counsel, Columbia, MO; For Sierra Club: Henry B. Robertson, St. Louis, MO, GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER; For Rockies Express Pipeline: Colly J. Durley, Sarah Elizabeth Giboney, Co-Counsel, Columbia, MO, SMITH LEWIS, LLP; For The Wind Coalition: Deirdre Kay Hirner, Jefferson City, MO; For Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.: David Lee Woodsmall, Jefferson City, MO, WOODSMALL LAW OFFICE.

          For Missouri Public Service Commission: Curt Stokes, Jefferson City, MO and Jennifer Leigh Heintz, Co-Counsel, and Kevin Allen Thompson, Co-Counsel, Jefferson City, MO; For Renew Missouri: Timothy James Opitz, Columbia, MO; For Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC: Jeremiah Wilson Nixon, John James Rehmann II, and Adam Joseph Simon, Co-Counsels, St. Louis, MO, DOWD BENNETT LLP, Peggy Ann Whipple, Co-Counsel, Jefferson City, MO, HEALY LAW OFFICES, LLC; Douglas Lee Healy, Co-Counsel, Springfield, MO, HEALY LAW OFFCIES, LCC, Anne Elizabeth Callenbach, Frank A. Caro, Jr., and Andrew Owens Schulte, Co-Counsels, Kansas City, MO, POLSINELLI, P.C; ., Lisa Ann Gilbreath, Co-Counsel, Portland, ME; Jacqueline Michelle Whipple, and Karl Zobrist, Co-Counsels, Kansas City, MO, DENTON US, LLP.

          Honorable Mary K. Hoff. Sherri B. Sullivan, Judge and Angela T. Quigless, Judge: Concur.

          OPINION

Page 636

          Honorable Mary K. Hoff, Judge.

          Missouri Landowners Alliance (" MLA" ) and Eastern Missouri Landowners Alliance, d/b/a Show Me Concerned Landowners, Christina Reichert, and Missouri Farm Bureau (collectively " Farm Bureau" ) appeal the report and order issued by the Public Service Commission of the State of Missouri (" Commission" ) on remand granting Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC (" Grain Belt" ) its application for a certificate of convenience and necessity (" CCN" ) to construct and maintain an interstate electrical line and associated facilities. We affirm.[1]

Page 637

         Procedural Background

          The procedural history surrounding this consolidated appeal is complicated and involves multiple parties and intervenors.[2]

          Relevant to this appeal, Appellant MLA was an intervenor in the matter before the Commission as were Appellants Eastern Missouri Landowners Alliance, d/b/a Show Me Concerned Landowners, Christina Reichert, and Missouri Farm Bureau (collectively " Farm Bureau" ). Additional intervenors were Respondents Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (" MJMEUC" ) and Renew Missouri. Respondent MJMEUC is a joint action agency and a public and corporate body of the State of Missouri authorized by legislation to construct, operate, and maintain transmission and generation facilities for the production and transmission of electric power for its members, purchase and sell electric power and energy, and enter into agreements with any person for the transmission of electric power. MJMEUC has 68 Missouri municipal members, and Citizens Electric Corporation, a rural electric cooperative with more than 21,000 members, is an advisory member. Together, MJMEUC's members serve approximately 347,000 Missouri retail electric customers.

          Again, relevant to this appeal, Respondent Commission is the state agency responsible for the regulation of public utilities in Missouri and whose authority extends to the issuance of CCNs for the construction of electric plants within Missouri.

          Respondent Grain Belt is the limited liability company that applied for a CCN to construct and maintain an interstate electrical line and related facilities.

          Respondent Renew Missouri is a non-profit group focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency policy that submitted several filings in support of Grain Belt's application.

          Factual Background

          On August 30, 2016, Grain Belt filed an application with the Commission for authorization to build the Missouri portion of an electric transmission line which would run approximately 780 miles and which would move wind-generated energy from western Kansas to Missouri and other states farther east. Grain Belt filed its application pursuant to Section 393.170.1, RSMo (2016),[3] 4 CSR 240-2.060, and 4 CSR 240-3.105(1)(B).

          The proposed route of the line would cross 206 miles through eight northern Missouri counties: Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph, and Ralls. The transmission line would cross the property of approximately 570 Missouri landowners and would deliver 4,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity from western Kansas, including 500 megawatts to Missouri and 3,500 megawatts to states further east. Grain Belt also proposed to construct the Missouri converter station and associated AC interconnecting facilities in Ralls County.

          The Commission conducted local public hearings in each of the eight counties where the proposed transmission line would be located. From March 20 through March 24, 2017, the Commission held an evidentiary hearing and issued its decision on August 16, 2017, rejecting Grain Belt's application for a CCN on procedural grounds.[4]

Page 638

          Grain Belt appealed the Commission's decision to this Court, which reversed and then transferred the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. On transfer, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded that the Commission had erred in finding it could not lawfully grant a CCN to Grain Belt and remanded back to the Commission to determine whether Grain Belt's " proposed utility project is necessary or convenient for the public service." [5] Grain Belt Express Clean Line, LLC v. Public Service Comm'n, 555 S.W.3d 469, 474 (Mo. banc 2018).

          On remand, the Commission held another evidentiary hearing on December 18-19, 2018. The Commission received additional evidence regarding potential changes which may have occurred since ...


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