Flickr/Creative Commons photo by megareds.
       A panoramic view of St. Louis, the largest metropolitan area in Missouri. IBEW members and friends are encouraged to tell members of the state Senate not to support legislation that would block construction of the Grain Belt Express.

IBEW leaders are asking members and friends to contact Missouri state senators this week and urge them to vote against any bill that would derail construction of the Grain Belt Express, an environmentally friendly, electrical transmission project that will deliver wind power from the Midwest to the East Coast power grid.

The project is expected to generate nearly 1,500 skilled construction jobs in the state during a three-year period, many of which will be filled by IBEW members. The current Missouri legislative session ends Friday at midnight.

After years of debate, it looked as if the project had cleared its final major hurdle in March, when the state’s five-member Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved it after twice voting it down.

The state House, however, responded by passing a bill that prohibits the project’s developers from acquiring land from property owners via eminent domain. The lines will pass through rural northern Missouri and Gov. Mike Parson, while not taking a position on the issue, reiterated after the vote that he largely views eminent domain as “government overreach.”

Democrats in the state Senate were able to slow the bill’s progress in that chamber, where a vote didn’t occur last week, but the issue is far from over. A bill could pop up again in the coming days and that’s why IBEW leaders are asking members to contact their state senators and urge them to let the project go forward.

“This has been a frustrating battle in Missouri because the three other states involved in the project quickly moved to support it,” Eleventh District Vice President Curtis E. Henke said. “But even with the House vote, we have reason to be optimistic. If a bill fails to come out of the Legislature, we’re confident the commission’s ruling will stand and construction will soon begin.

“To get it done, however, we need help from the people we depend on most: our members. They can help their brothers and sisters get good-paying jobs and do right by the state of Missouri.”

The Grain Belt Express is slated to begin in western Kansas – sometimes called the Nirvana of wind power because of the optimum conditions there to produce it – and stretch across Missouri and Illinois before ending in Indiana.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, a division of the state’s Department of Economic Development, estimated in a 2016 study it would generate about 1,500 jobs and $246 million in new personal income for the state during the three-year construction period.

“We want landowners to get a fair price,” Henke said. “But we’re talking about thousands of high-paying jobs for the working people of Missouri and an abundance of clean energy that’s going to benefit electrical customers across the state and the country.”

The Missouri Public Utility Alliance estimates that 39 municipalities in the state that have agreed to purchase power from Grain Belt will save $12.8 million annually,, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The project is expected to deliver power to about 1.5 million homes, including 200,000 in Missouri.

Members and allies can find information on how to contact their state senator here.