PSC rules on Mark Twain Transmission Project

Neighbors United members protest against the Mark Twain Transmission Project in January during hearings in Jefferson City (Photo: KTVO)

The long wait for a ruling on the hotly debated Mark Twain Transmission Project is over.

Sort of.

Wednesday morning the Missouri Public Service Commission conditionally granted Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois' request for a certificate of convenience and necessity. The chief condition, though, could be a deal-breaker for the project without a major change in attitudes or another court ruling in Ameren's favor.

The commissioners agreed at their meeting Wednesday that Ameren showed the line would benefit Missourians, but they also agreed that the line could only be built with the approval of the five counties through which the line would run. Each county commission has passed resolutions in opposition to the project.

The effect is enough for both sides to claim victory, to a degree, but the outcome by far favors the grassroots opposition group Neighbors United, which has successfully put the line's construction in question after a two-year-long, uphill battle.

"While Neighbors United is disappointed that the PSC has voted to grant a CCN for the Mark Twain Transmission Project, we are heartened that this approval is conditioned upon [Ameren] obtaining assent from all five affected county commissions, which they do not have," Neighbors United spokeswoman Teri Page told KTVO's Ashley Hoak Wednesday. "Adair, Schuyler, Marion, Knox and Shelby Counties have formally opposed the unnecessary and expensive project from the very beginning, and continue to oppose the [Mark Twain Transmission Project] in support of landowners and property rights."

The utility giant has maintained from the beginning that the county commissioners do not need to approve the construction, and that requiring them to do so would set a precedent that it says could practically prevent any new transmission lines from being built anywhere in the state.

But to win that debate, Ameren will require either an unlikely change of heart by all five county commissions, or a court ruling, which the company is expected to pursue as soon as possible. If Ameren wins such a challenge, project manager Jim Jontry said earlier this month that it would likely delay the line's construction by a year or more.

Page said that the group will continue to oppose the project should Ameren decide to pursue other remedies to get the line built.

Adair County Commissioner Mark Thompson told KTVO Wednesday that the commission will change its stance on the project "as soon as hell freezes over."

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