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Kansas farm interests want say in power lines

Published on -2/24/2014, 4:43 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A bill before the Kansas House would require proposed transmission lines to undergo more regulatory scrutiny before they are approved.

Under the bill, the Kansas Electric Transmission Authority would review all proposed transmission line projects before they are considered by the Kansas Corporation Commission.

Supporters said the bill would give landowners more input into projects that often are placed on farmland. Others suggested the state's process for approving such projects is already sufficient.

Rep. Sharon Schwartz, a Republican from Washington, said the bill was partly a response to the KCC's approval of a proposed project by Clear Line Energy, which wants to build a 700-mile transmission line to carry wind energy to the east, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1hp16MI ).

About 370 miles of the lines would be in Kansas, where the project has met some resistance, particularly in the northeast corner of the state. The Clean Line project still needs approval from Missouri, Indiana and Illinois.

"The ground they were going across is prime farmland ground and the people that it's affected didn't know about it until basically Clean Line had been granted their Certificate of Convenience," Schwartz said during a hearing on the bill last week before the House Energy and Environment Committee. "Obviously, I think if they had been granted some input, it might have made a difference."

The line is projected to spur $7 billion in wind energy projects and Gov. Sam Brownback supported it when the KCC approved the Kansas portion in 2011.

Michael White, manager of Topeka-based utility company ITC Great Plains, said his company is neutral on the bill but is concerned that it doesn't clearly define what types of transmission lines would be affected. He also noted that the KCC and utilities already provide open houses and town hall meetings on proposed transmission projects.

Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, said she doesn't know of any transmission projects in Kansas in which "every inch of the way hasn't been before KETA" and Clean Line officials have discussed the project with KETA "over and over and over again."

"While it sounds great to add another layer to the process, I think Kansas is actually in good shape with how we do transmission with landowners," Kuether said. "They're under a microscope."

The committee planned to continue the hearing this week.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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