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Bill to stop utility use of eminent domain advances

One of the nation’s largest wind energy projects is facing a new obstacle from Missouri legislation that could prevent the high-voltage power line from being strung across the property of unwilling landowners.

A Missouri House panel advanced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit the use of eminent domain to acquire easements for the Grain Belt Express project. The proposed 750-mile transmission line would carry wind power from Kansas across Missouri and Illinois into Indiana, where it would hook into a grid serving eastern states.

The $2.3 billion project has been repeatedly delayed by regulatory hurdles and court battles.

But it won a significant victory in March when Missouri’s utility regulatory commission deemed it a public utility, allowing it to pursue condemnation cases against landowners who refuse to sell easements. The commission will have a hearing later this month on whether the project’s new owner, Invenergy, should be allowed to take over the project in Missouri.

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