Public Hearings- Critical!!

Public Hearings- Critical!!

Thanks to everyone that braved the cold and took time off of work to attend, the hearings were a huge success! 

We are extremely pleased with the large turnout at each of the hearings and all of the informed, passionate and well planned testimonies given. The last four hearings went exceptionally well with far more testifying in opposition than in support of the line. There was, of course far more in attendance opposed to Grain Belt than in favor. We are sure that we made a very big impression on the Commission.

At one of the hearings, one official that goes to many public hearings told one of us off the record that they have never been to a hearing where so many highly informed and passionate citizens have testified.

We should all feel very good about what we have just accomplished.

What’s next?

We recently learned that on January 24th the Public Service Commission staff will make their recommendation to the Commission whether or not to grant the Certificate, which is very important. If you’ll remember, the staf, which is made up of utility economists, engineers and attorneys, recommended denial the last time.

So, if you have not already sent in a comment to the PSC, please consider doing so. It is extremely important that we submit a very large number of comments. We ask you to please submit your comments to the PSC by January 9th in order to give the staff plenty of time to read and tally them prior to their recommendation on the 24th.

You will find a sample letter attached.  Feel free to use it, although if you can write one of your own it may carry more weight.  Explain why you oppose the line and how it would impact you.  Be sure to include the case number EA-2016-0358 on the comment.

You may submit your comment in one of two ways: 1) electronically on the PSC’s web site www.psc.mo.gov.  Choose “Submit a comment” from the “How to” column on the right side. Then type in the case number EA-2016-0358 and type your comment in the box. Or 2) you may send it by mail to Missouri Public Service Commission, 200 Madison Street, P.O. Box 0360, Jefferson City, Mo 65102.

We also ask that all petitions be sent in to us by the 6th of January so that we can hand deliver them to the staff on or near the 10th of January.  So, if you have petition forms, please send them to us at: Block Grain Belt Express, P.O. Box 61, Kingston, MO 64650

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Dear Block Grain Belt Express supporters,

Grain Belt Express is out in advance of the Public Hearings making lots of promises of riches if Missouri were to approve the unnecessary transmission line designed primarily to transport power to the east coast grid. These claims are not supported by facts and we should not believe them. It is obviously a desperate attempt to support their project and to convince us to stay at home during the hearings.

Grain Belt is claiming that our county can “expect” to bring in a large sums of tax revenues from the line. The only thing we can certainly expect is that its parent company Clean Line, or whoever the purchases the line will have a staff of tax attorneys and accountants dedicated to reducing its tax liability that will get to work as soon as the line was approved.

Don Lowenstein, a CPA and businessman from Cameron in 2014 investigated Grain Belt’s estimates through the Missouri Tax Division and testified to the PSC. He found that it is impossible to estimate the tax revenues at this time since this private company has never built or sold anything and the taxes are based on the company’s financial statement. Therefore, any estimates of future tax revenues in the county are meritless.

It is important to remember that Missourians rightfully demanded reform of its eminent domain law in 2006 to prohibit condemnation of private property solely for economic reasons such as increased tax revenues.  That is because all of our homes and property would generate more taxes if a Wal-Mart or other big business was built on it.

Grain Belt is also making claims that Missouri’s consumers will save millions through a very weak agreement that some small town municipalities made to use the electricity on the line. However, those are of course Grain Belt’s figures and there is no data provided to back up those claims.  If there was so much money to be saved by using the line, then I cannot help but wonder why Missouri’s Public Utility companies, Ameren, KCP&L and Empire along with and the wholesaler Associated Electric all chose not to do business with Grain Belt. Could it be that those large companies know something the small municipalities do not know?

Finally, Grain Belt is making much of the payments landowners would receive for the easements. It is offering to pay “fair market value”, which of course is the price of acreage when an entire farm is sold, not a swath down the middle of a farm for a string of eye soars and obstacles that would lower property values.  It also brags about its annual payment per structure of $500.  That is a drop in the bucket compared to wind turbines and cell phone towers which pay 10 to 15 times that amount per structure in rural Missouri.  Grain Belt desperately needs the power of eminent domain to force landowners to sell easements because it wants to pay such ridiculously low prices for it.

Eminent domain should be used only when absolutely necessary to provide needed utilities and infrastructure to the local residents.  Condemnation of private property for any other reason is a violation of all of property rights, one of our most fundamental rights.

Private companies such as Grain Belt Express that are not regulated Public Utilities should be forced to acquire easements through negotiating on the open and free market, as any other business must do to acquire land needed to do business.  If the line to the east coast is critical, the company and its consumers should be willing to pay a true market based price for the easements.

We ask for your support and urge you to please attend the Public Service Commission’s upcoming public hearings to voice your opposition to the Grain Belt line.  A large attendance with many people testifying is crucial to our effort.  The Commissioners were very moved by the large turnouts in opposition at the last round of hearings in 2014 and those hearings likely played a large part in the denial of the first application.

We would like to remind everyone planning to attend the hearings and testify that the PSC will limit each person to five minutes.  Plus, our attorney strongly advises that we say “Thank you” and end our talk immediately if the Administrative Judge tells us our five minutes are up. We appreciate the PSC coming out to listen to what we have to say.  It is extremely important that we respect their rules and time schedule.

Thank you.  With your support and attendance we can block Grain Belt Express.

PSC rules and our suggestions for the hearings:

PSC Rules for this case

  • All hearing locations are handicap accessible. Any person who needs additional accommodations to participate in the hearing should call the Public Service Commission’s Hotline at 1-800-392-4211 (voice) or Relay Missouri at 711 before the hearing.
  • Before speaking, you will be sworn in as a witness.
  • When speaking, state your name and the county you live and or own property in. You will likely be asked to spell your name.
  • Speak slowly so that the court reporter can keep up with you.
  • You will only be allowed to testify once throughout all of the hearings. However, you may attend as many of the hearings as you wish.
  • Each speaker will be limited to five minutes. If the Law Judge tells you your time is up, just say “thank you” and end it there.
  • No one will be allowed to yield their time to another speaker.
  • If you have printed material which is related to what you are speaking about, you may offer it to the Law Judge as an Exhibit if you wish to do so.

Our Suggestions

  • Wear your Block Grain Belt shirt and/or cap. If you do not have one, we suggest you wear a similar neon lime green shirt so that we can show a noticeably large and unified force.
  • We will also have some Block Grain Belt caps for sale in the parking lot before the hearing.
  • We suggest you arrive at least an hour early to get on the agenda and find a seat. We expect Grain Belt to bring in even more supporters of theirs from college campuses, unions and etc. than in 2014 that will also try to get on the agenda early. Speakers will be called upon in the order they signed in.
  • Be respectful and courteous when speaking and listening to others.
  • Please respect and obey the rules for testifying.
  • Always address the Commission as “Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission”.
  • Testify as to how the unnecessary line would impact your life, your operation, your property and/or your community.
  • It is very important that we have very large numbers of speakers in opposition to Grain Belt. Whether or not someone else in your family has already spoke, your testimony is needed and will make a difference. You do not have to be a great public speaker or to give a long inspirational speech. You may simply state that you are opposed to Grain Belt and state one or more reason why. Or, you may just say that you are opposed for reasons already stated.
  • Thank the Chairman and members of the Commission and urge them to deny Grain Belt Express.

Russ Piscotta, President of Block GBE, stated, “At the last round of hearings, it was inspiring to see so many diverse people come together to accomplish the defeat of Grain Belt’s attack on private property rights. Everyone was wearing green to show their support for Block GBE, creating a sea of green in the audience, and the citizens did an amazing job standing up for property rights. It is extremely important that we have an even better showing in front of our PSC this time! Clean Line has stepped up their game and will likely show up at these hearings with even more advocates. Please remember to wear your green and bring lots of friends and family. Together we can defeat them once and for all.”

Some of Block GBE’s major concerns are property rights, property devaluation, health effects, and the impediments to farming posed by the lines. Citizens interested in standing up for Missouri and showing our Public Service Commission how much they care about their communities and property rights can get more information about the public hearings by calling 660-232-1280.