Lawmakers try to slow Ameren plans for new transmission line

2013-03-02T00:01:00Z 2013-03-04T06:05:45Z Lawmakers try to slow Ameren plans for new transmission lineBy HANNAH DOUGLAS - H&R Springfield Bureau Writer Herald-Review.com

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers are trying to slow down the review process on a major power line project planned by Ameren Transmission Co.

The measure, which takes aim at the utility’s Illinois Rivers Project, would allow only lines less than five miles in length to apply for expedited review with the Illinois Commerce Commission. In addition, it would prevent the construction of transmission lines within 1.5 miles of various public and private lands.

Ameren has told regulators it wants to build a 380-mile electric transmission line from Palmyra, Mo., to Sugar Creek, Ind., through 19 Illinois counties, including Macon, Coles and Edgar.

Currently, companies submitting transmission project proposals can apply for an expedited review by the ICC under a 2010 act.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who has introduced legislation seeking to intervene in the issue, said the project’s necessity is at question, and he has been approached by constituents concerned about the new power lines.

He said Ameren wants the project on a fast track to avoid more scrutiny.

“They want it over and done with as quickly as possible before anyone has time to catch their breath and ask the tough questions,” Rose said.

Leigh Morris, spokesman for Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois, said the company opposes the measure, saying it is too restrictive.

“It would basically stop transmission projects in the state of Illinois,” Morris said.

The project is meant to improve reliability and market efficiency, address the increasing need for electricity and access to renewable energy among others, Morris said.

The main difference between an expedited review process and the regular review process is the expedited one has a deadline six to eight months from the time the application is filed with the commission, ICC spokesman Randy Nehrt said.

“If more cases were filed without the expedited process, it would afford landowners and more local governmental bodies more time to effectively intervene in transmission siting cases and provide testimony on the routing of the transmission line,” Nehrt said.

Expedited review procedures require companies to hold at least three public meetings in each county where the transmission lines would be located.

The deadline for commission action on the project’s application is Aug. 20.

State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, who has introduced legislation similar to Rose’s in the House, said constituents approached him on the situation.

“This has been a huge issue for us as far as determining whether this transmission line is necessary,” Brown said.

He said he also hopes to communicate between parties and will continue to work on the proposal’s language.

“In the end, we all want reliable power and reliable power sources throughout our communities,” Brown said.

A map of the line can be viewed at www.ilriverstransmission.com/maps.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1874 and House Bill 2240.

hannah.douglas@lee.net|(217) 528-1079

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