MOBERLY, Mo. — Northeast Missouri landowners opposed to a 750-mile network of high-power transmission lines said they are frustrated by being characterized as people who reject new infrastructure projects simply because they don't want the developments in their area.
Among those are Laurie and Dennis Smith, a rural Moberly couple who are opposed to the Grain Belt Express because of concerns about property rights and health dangers posed by the electromagnetic fields produced by power lines and electronic devices, the Columbia Tribune (http://bit.ly/1kv3SVk) reported.
Houston-based Clean Line Energy is proposing the $2 billion high-voltage line, which would funnel power from western Kansas wind farms to utilities, load-serving entities and clean-energy generators in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
The project has passed most regulatory hurdles in Kansas and Indiana, but still needs the approval of regulators in Missouri and Illinois.
Randolph County commissioners continue to express their support for the project, while seven other Missouri county commissions have either voiced opposition or rescinded letters of support.
One of the biggest concerns among Missouri opponents is the threat to property rights and potential for declining property values. The Missouri Farm Bureau has voted to oppose granting eminent domain to Clean Line Energy Partners for the project.
Dennis Smith, an emergency department physician who works in Hannibal, said he and his wife were opposed to the Grain Belt project even before they knew it would bisect their 80-acre farm. The two are even more adamantly against the power line after an annual BioInitiative Report listed health risks of electromagnetic fields.
"It's a dangerous thing," Dennis Smith said.
But officials with Clean Line Energy Partners point to a study by the World Health Organization that concluded just the opposite. Supporters of the Grain Belt Express say the WHO studies were conducted by unbiased experts and signed off on by several countries.
"If this power line was not dangerous and if the landowners were truly going to be compensated to their satisfaction, and if it was truly for the benefit of Missouri, we would not stand in the way of progress," Laurie Smith said. "Now that we know it is highly dangerous, it's not acceptable."
Mark Lawlor, Grain Belt Express director of development, said opponents of the project are focusing on "misinformation" such as health risks and "peripheral issues" such as the possibility of using eminent domain against property owners who won't sell rights to property easements.
"The conclusion of all these studies is there's no known health risk associated with exposure" to the level of electromagnetic fields associated with high-power transmission lines, Lawlor said, referring to the WHO report. "This does not mean that you cannot go on Google and find something that can give you concern."
Clean Line President Michael Skelly said he would like to see the transmission lines and towers start going in place in 2016, with operation beginning in 2018.