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Keith and Elvine Sandfur and Richard Kapraun sign a banner in support of the group Block RICL during an informational meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday. Block RICL is a growing grassroots organization made up of area residents opposed to a private energy company gaining public utility status in order to construct massive high-voltage power lines through prime farmland in northern La Salle County.
OTTAWA — A growing grassroots organization created to lobby against a private corporation’s attempt to build high voltage power lines through northern La Salle County is gaining influence and momentum. Block RICL held an organizational rally Tuesday at Pitsticks Pavilion in Ottawa to drum up more support for its effort against Rock Island Energy’s application with the Illinois Commerce Commission to become a publicly regulated utility. Clean Line Energy, based in Houston, Texas, intends to build the Rock Island Clean Line, a 3,500-megawatt, 120-mile-long high-voltage transmission line that would take wind energy generated in Iowa and deliver it to a converter station in Grundy County. There is debate regarding the percentage of actual wind energy the line will transmit. That percentage could be as low as 30 percent with the rest coming from non-green sources such as coal and natural gas. More than 280 La Salle County residents have signed up to become Block RICL members because the project involves constructing massive 200-foot tall power line structures through privately-owned farm property. Homeowners will be compensated for granting easements to the company, but many fear the health impact of having high-voltage power lines so close to their homes, the economic impact to their prime condition farm ground, and the overall land value will be decimated. “This is a private company trying to get public utility status to seize private land to construct high-voltage power lines with easements that last in perpetuity which is forever,” said Block RICL spokesman Mary Mauch. “Several of these projects are being proposed to go through Illinois and the Rock Island Clean Line will set the precedent with the ICC (Illinois Commerce Commission).” Mauch announced that the effort to stop the project is growing rapidly. Some nationally recognized documentary filmmakers have decided to document Block RICL while interest on their social media sites has been growing. Additionally, a separate group called the Illinois Landowners Association, made up of area attorneys and other interested people, has been created to funnel money for expert and legal support at ICC hearings expected to take place later this year. Among the ILA members is attorney Jack Cantlin who reminded the nearly 250 people in attendance that if Clean Line Energy is made a public utility they will not have to pay property taxes and can still very easily be granted eminent domain and take people’s property for the project. “This could be a David versus Goliath situation,” he said. “There is a lot of money out there for propaganda twisting the green energy message to fit what this energy company is trying to do.”