- The Illinois Supreme Court has dealt a blow to developers of the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project, upholding an appellate court decision that blocked the 500-mile project last year.
- The court ruled last week that the Illinois Commerce Commission was incorrect when it approved the Rock Island project in 2014, determining the necessary certificate can only be granted to a public utility — which Clean Line is not.
- The $2 billion project is designed to bring 3,500 MW of wind power from northwest Iowa to Illinois and other states to the east.
According to Crain's Chicago Business, Clean Line will determine in the coming months if it wants to continue to pursue the project, but in a statement, company officials said the court's decision would ultimately hurt consumers.
The state Supreme Court's decision "causes great delay for the project and will directly impact competition in electricity markets, resulting in fewer choices and higher prices for electricity. It is unfortunate that Illinois now has higher barriers for new market entrants," the company said.
The court's decision does not kill the project. Clean Line has only an option to purchase some land in Illinois associated wth the project, and has not yet completed that acquisition. As a result, the court specified that it could reapply to the Illinois Commerce Commission after completing the deal.
In addition, because Clean Line only holds an option to purchase the land, the court determined the ICC's approval of the project was improper. Once it owns the land, and reapplies as a utility to develop the project, other questions related to its application can be addressed, the court concluded.
After the appellate court's decision, Clean Line withdrew its application in Iowa rather than rushing to identify land it would need to acquire using eminent domain.
The Illinois Commerce Commission unanimously approved the Rock Island Clean Line three years ago. At the heart of the legal dispute is whether the certificate issued to the project can be obtained by companies that are not public utilities in the state.
According to the Supreme Court's decision, "because Rock Island cannot meet the ownership requirement for qualification as a public utility, there is no need to reach the additional question of whether it also fails the 'public use' requirement."