News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 20, 2013

Converter station project raises concerns

TERRE HAUTE — A converter station, which would convert direct current into alternating current as part of a proposed Clean Line Energy project through Illinois, could provide a potential tax income of more than $1.16 million, said Steve Turpin, Clark County supervisor of assessments.

Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC, an affiliate of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC of Houston, is seeking to construct a $2 billion high-voltage direct current line through Missouri, Illinois and about 2 miles in Indiana, where it will connect with existing 765 kilovolt high-voltage transmission lines that originate in Sullivan County. The private venture must still apply to become a utility in Illinois.

The project is not affiliated with a separate proposed power line from Ameren Transmission Co., which proposes to construct a new 380-mile transmission line that will interconnect Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, ending in the Dresser Station in Vigo County.

Turpin told the Clark County Board on Friday he considered an assessment based on a $50 million converter, of which $45 million is taxable as a structure. The assessment is based on the converter qualifying for tax exemptions in an enterprise zone. That zone would have to be expanded to include land, 1 mile north of West Union, the company has on option as a development site.

The enterprise zone provides an eight-year tax abatement to companies in tax districts that are part of the zone. Taxes are abated 100 percent for the first five years, then 75 percent of taxes are abated in the sixth year, with 50 percent tax abated in year seven and 25 percent in the final year.

The converter structure would generate more than $1.16 million in new tax revenue, of which $771,525 would be abated in the first five years. However, $394,440 would be new tax income in the first year, Turpin told the board.

Three taxing districts that currently abate taxes in the enterprise zone include Marshall schools, Clark County and Clark County Ambulance. After the abatement period ends, Marshall Schools would receive $533,160 annually, Clark County would receive $200,865 and Clark County Ambulance would receive $37,500.

“We would be looking at an increased assessed value in York Township of $15 million. That is a significant number considering that there is just not a lot of assessed value or improvements in that area,” Turpin said.

The township would receive $200,250 in tax income annually, if the converter station is built in the township, Turpin said. Since he does not know an exact route, Turpin said he could not calculate any devaluation values of any property or structures next to the transmission line.

If the Clean Line project goes forward, “considering where they are going, and this is just my personal opinion, it is an extremely rural area, much more rural than the other potential [power transmission] line, I think the potential impact is significantly less,” Turpin said.

Clark County resident Peggy Mills told board members she thinks the board “needs to think about what you are doing to everybody’s lives. Just because it is a rural community, doesn’t mean it means any less” to county residents along the path of the transmission line.

Tony Trimble of the Clark County Farm Bureau said the agency opposes the transmission line. Trimble said the agency would continue its stance until the state issues an agricultural impact report.

Adhar Johnson, a manager for Clean Line Energy Partners, said the company is working on a memorandum of understanding with the Illinois Department of Agriculture that outlines agricultural mitigation action conditions and construction procedures, Johnson said.

Board member Randy McGinnis said he would like Clean Line to meet with residents of the county again, specifically with residents in West Union where the converter could be built.

Johnson said the company would first seek a group meeting “where we would do some additional routing. From there we would come up with some proposed routes and from there have public meetings, where we would invite all the involved landowners as well as the general public to provide more feedback.”

“We are probably a few months out from having the next round of a smaller group meeting and a little more than a year out from having public meetings,” Johnson said.

Clean Line would not go before the Illinois Commerce Commission until a route is selected, likely a least a 11⁄2 years away, Johnson told the board. If regulatory approvals are received, the project is scheduled to start in 2015, with two to three years to complete.

Warren J. LeFever, a member of the Marshall Town Council, said he thinks the county should oppose the transmission line if a power converter is not built in Clark County. “If we don’t get the converter station, no, forget it, take it down to another county, the whole line,” he said after the board meeting.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@

tribstar.com.

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