Illinois Farm Bureau disputes granting eminent domain powers for the Grain Belt Express transmission line contained in controversial energy legislation passed by Illinois Senators.

Bill Bodine

Bill Bodine

“IFB has long opposed any provision that would grant eminent domain powers to Grain Belt Express transmission line to take private property,” said Bill Bodine, Illinois Farm Bureau director of regulatory and business affairs.

On a 39-16 vote with two voting present, the Senate late Wednesday sent SB 18 to the House of Representatives that had adjourned earlier. Because the House hasn’t considered SB 18, the bill will have to go through the legislative process just as other bills do.

The bill includes very complex and technical language and two provisions of special interest to IFB. One is the granting of eminent domain powers, and the second would keep the Prairie State coal-powered electric generation facility operating in southern Illinois until 2045. Many changes to the proposal are anticipated in the House, according to Bodine.

“IFB will continue to advocate that no eminent domain powers for private utility companies, like Grain Belt Express, should be granted and will support reflection of IFB positions and policies in continuing negotiations,” said Kevin Semlow, IFB director of state legislation.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, a lead energy bill negotiator, told reporters the bill’s granting of eminent domain “was very limited” and pertained to Grain Belt Express transmission line in seven southern Illinois counties. Cunningham stressed the utility company, Invenergy, would have to go through the Illinois Commerce Commission and through the courts. “Nobody’s property is going to be taken away without getting the full market value of property that a transmission line goes over,” he said.

During debate in the Senate, three senators called for the provision granting eminent domain authority to a private utility be removed from the legislation.

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, told reporters, “We’re in the mindset of transformation to a new green economy. I think the coal plants are headed out regardless of legislative action. We may accelerate that, but we need to transform our economy to affordable, reliable, renewable energy.”

Harmon characterized the senate’s bill as striking a balance between job loss and “real, meaningful decarbonization.”