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Farmers Oppose Plan For Major Wind Energy Project

Russell Pisciotta is among a growing number of landowners in rural Missouri against having a major power line cut through their property.
(KIDDER, Mo.) Welcome to rural Caldwell County, where cows roam on the rolling hills and every barn has a weather vane to tell you how the wind blows.

Even on a day with grey skies, it's picturesque.

"We think it's beautiful, these grassy green rolling hills," said cattle farmer Russell Pisciotta, who has lived here for nearly twenty years.

He's not happy that Clean Line Energy Partners, an upstart energy company, wants to take wind energy from western Kansas and move it through Missouri to states out east.

It's mostly because huge power lines will cross through his property.

"We heard it was about wind energy and we thought 'Well, that's sustainable energy.  Maybe that's a good thing.'  But the more we learned about it the more we found it was totally unnecessary," Pisciotta said.

Clean Line Energy Partners has held many meetings regionally to show landowners where their proposed Grain Belt Express line will go.

"The whole proposal sounds like a way to get electricity to the east coast states and not about Missouri," Pisciotta said.

"There are pros and cons to everything," explains Diana Rivera from Clean Line.  "We will have to put the transmission line somewhere. We're hoping people will see there are benefits to the project, in terms of jobs and local development and property tax revenue."

Pisciotta doesn't believe the construction work will stay local, nor does he like the idea that the energy line would cut through the same land where his cows graze.

"We're committed to compensating the landowners fairly for any inconvenience and any impact on their property," Rivera said.  "That includes an easement payment - we'll pay 100% of the value of the acres affected as well as a structure payment - we're offering a one time payment or an annual payment for as long as the structures are on their property."

For farmers like Pisciotta, that promise for payment still isn't enough.

"We figured, once we found out how much compensation they were going to give us versus how much our land would drop, we thought it was a really bad deal," he said.  "We can't even fathom the thought of living underneath these power lines that are more than likely going to glow and hum.  It's just going to change our way of life."

And that way of life includes acres and acres of rolling hills, and pasture for his cattle.

Pisciotta and other famers in Caldwell County have already drafted a petition against the Grain Belt Express line.

It's garnered a few hundred signatures.

Clean Line Energy still needs approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission before construction can begin.

That decision likely won't come until some time in 2014.
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