Righter seeks common ground despite utility pushback on property rights

 

Bill aims to ensure landowners get appropriate notice, understanding of electric utility projects planned for their property.

Electric line structures dwarf Clark County farmer Brian Macke, left, and state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. Righter is sponsoring SB 777 to ensure landowners receive appropriate notice and due process with proposed high-voltage projects. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)
Electric line structures dwarf Clark County farmer Brian Macke, left, and state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. Righter is sponsoring SB 777 to ensure landowners receive appropriate notice and due process with proposed high-voltage projects. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo).
By Kay Shipman

Landowners face serious challenges to protect their property rights in the face of massive, complex electric utility projects, especially when utility companies push for quick assessment by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

As a state legislative priority, Illinois Farm Bureau again is seeking to amend the state’s expedited review process to better protect landowners’ rights.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, is sponsoring SB 777 and convened a special meeting with IFB and the electric utilities that adamantly oppose changing the process. The companion bill, HB 3207, is sponsored by Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee.

“The purpose of the legislation is to ensure landowners who must deal with high-voltage lines across their property are given appropriate notice and adequate understanding of what is going on and due process,” Righter told FarmWeek.

“Too often, landowners are left feeling confused or shortchanged in this process,” Righter continued, “so building in safeguards and slowing down the process slightly” is beneficial.

“IFB appreciates Senator Righter’s efforts and work,” said Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation. “We are hopeful we can reach an agreement.”

Righter said he remains optimistic “we can make some progress on this issue.”

An expedited review process allows only a limited time for state officials to consider a proposal and make a decision. Frequently, landowners lack enough time to consider options and participate in the review process.

As proposed, the legislation seeks to provide more information on the route of transmission lines earlier in the process so landowners can be better informed and better engaged in the expedited review process before the ICC.

The bill also requires the ICC to make its approval conditioned upon the utilities adhering to an agricultural impact mitigation agreement and provides additional time before the ICC can grant eminent domain powers following approval of the project.

Content for this story provided by www.FarmWeekNow.com.

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