By Lu Nelson
In December, Clean Line Energy Partners held public meetings in Iowa, an important step in the approval process for transmission project Clean Line hopes to build in the state. Clean Line is the developer of the Rock Island Clean Line project, a high-voltage direct current transmission line that will run from O’Brien County in northwest Iowa to Morris, Ill. (Proposed to carry wind power to Illinois and other states east.)
This project has attracted much attention from the landowners and communities affected by the line. Both Illinois and Iowa have strong regulatory processes surrounding transmission projects, and they are designed to give landowners the opportunity to go on record with their thoughts and concerns relating to these projects.
Clean Line has done hundreds of meetings with communities and landowners for the Rock Island project, both one-on-one and with larger groups.
Transmission developers hold informational hearings not just to provide the facts of a project to landowners, but to also involve them in the project, using the insight of the community to refine the project or improve it. Landowners can bring their concerns to these meetings and talk them over with the developer, and sometimes even find compromises on things they may find disagreeable.
A good example came just this last year, when Clean Line announced they would offer not just lump sums for easements, but would also provide landowners the option of annual payments. This development came after Clean Line held numerous meetings with landowners and organizations.
The Center for Rural Affairs was one organization that advocated for a better payment structure for transmission projects, something that would give more to the landowners that host transmission projects.
Clean Line took advantage of its unique position — they are developing transmission lines, but they are not a utility that generates power — to change the payment options, and try to find a more equitable and attractive offer for landowners. Although making changes to transmission policy can be difficult, landowners and developers have a much better chance at affecting change if they work together toward shared goals.
Developers like Clean
Line value this feedback because it provides them the opportunity to work out issues with landowners and communities, keeping them from becoming trouble for everyone involved down the line.
Likewise, landowners have a much better chance of affecting these projects if they engage with developers and regulators, bringing their issues to the table and asking for answers.
It is incredibly important that transmission projects are done the right way, incorporating landowner feedback into the project and using it to inform changes to the project.Lu Nelsen represents the Center for Rural Affairs, which advocates for small farms and rural concerns. Comments: email@example.com