ICC members signal rehearing possible on Ameren line route

SPRINGFIELD — Two Illinois Commerce Commission members signaled Wednesday that consideration may be given to a rehearing on at least a portion of the proposed route for Ameren Transmission's high-voltage transmission line across Illinois.

The commission is scheduled to decide next Tuesday whether to adopt a draft order for the line, which would run from Quincy to Terre Haute, Ind.

If a rehearing is allowed on portions of the route, the commission would have another 150 days to consider those sections.

In East Central Illinois, the portion of the line connecting substations in Mount Zion and Kansas was originally expected to run through Moultrie and Coles counties.

But objectors in Moultrie County came up with an alternate route that would largely skip Moultrie County and instead run through Piatt and Douglas counties.

Though that route lies several miles north of the primary and alternate routes that Ameren Transmission had recommended, the company agreed to the new route as part of a stipulation with Moultrie County landowners.

That didn't sit well with Piatt and Douglas county landowners, who said the new route popped up only after Ameren concluded months of public meetings on its recommended routes.

At a bench session of the commission Wednesday, Commissioner Ann McCabe asked an ICC administrative law judge whether adequate notice could be given to landowners if a rehearing is granted on a portion of the line.

The judge, John Albers, said it would be a "pretty tight time frame" since only 150 days are allowed for a rehearing.

Acting Commissioner Miguel del Valle asked Albers whether there had been adequate time to study the route and whether all legal requirements had been met.

Albers said he personally felt the time provided was insufficient. But he said those involved tried to do the best they could, given the 225-day time frame — the original 150 days allowed, plus a 75-day extension that ends next Tuesday.

Albers conceded there are "things we might not be aware of" about the proposed route. But he said he believed landowners on the route had gotten notice.

The route between Mount Zion and Kansas is not the only contested portion of the line across Illinois. No specific portions were identified during Wednesday's session, but ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch said some discussions involved a portion in Morgan and Sangamon counties between Meredosia and Pawnee.

Bosch said that's what administrative law judge Stephen Yoder was discussing when he referred to Ameren Transmission agreeing with a group of landowners on an alternate route.

Staff and other parties latched onto that route, and Yoder told the commissioners, "In my opinion, not much further evidence was presented to support that route."

Albers said at last count, 243 comments had been received from the public, many from people who claimed they never received notice of the route. He said it was difficult to tell how many of the comments came from people who own land the line would cross.

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