HB 1062 could be considered by the Missouri House as soon as next week, and the legislators will have the opportunity and the duty to correct an injustice.
1062 would overrule the Public Service Commission’s decision to grant the power of eminent domain to a power line running across northern Missouri. The bill speaks to the permanent tension between individual rights and the power of the government. A yes vote will be a strong reminder to unelected bureaucrats that the people have rights that should not – no, that must not – be ignored. 1062 is a chance to make clear that protecting those rights is more important than profit or tax revenues or even the desirability of “clean energy.”
Missouri utilities have long had the ability to condemn and take property. Eminent domain is necessary if we are to continue to enjoy the benefits of reliable electricity and dependable communications. However, Missouri law is clear on who is a utility, and it’s just as clear that the Clean Line Energy company, which was recently sold to a company called Invenergy, is not one. It’s also a Missouri requirement that an organization granted the right of eminent domain have the ability, both financially and otherwise, to do the things they say they’ll do. That’s not clear in this case either. That’s certainly been the opinion of the PSC for quite some time, since they’ve turned down the Clean Line application for eminent domain two previous times before they reversed that decision recently.
The PSC’s eventual approval followed the announcement by Clean Line that they would provide electricity to some Missouri towns at below-market prices, an inducement with a value estimated by the company at 10 million dollars per year. This was important because it’s the only benefit that some Missouri citizens will receive in return for the PSC forcing other citizens to give up their constitutionally-protected right to enjoy their property.
The PSC decision at least has the virtue of transparency. Constitutional principles protecting the 500 property owners along the proposed route are flexible and you, too, can buy the right of eminent domain for, oh, about ten million dollars a year.
The prices charged by utilities in Missouri are approved by the PSC. That’s not the case here, as Clean Line can charge whatever the market will bear for transporting power to states east of Missouri. Hundreds of windmills dot the Missouri landscape, the result of prices negotiated between willing landowners and the company building the windmills. That won’t be the case if 1062 fails, because Clean Line won’t have to bother with negotiations, having short circuited that messy process by essentially buying eminent domain from a regulatory body.
HB 1062 could be considered by the Missouri House as soon as next week. The Missouri legislature should pass 1062, and the governor should sign the bill into law.