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Wind turbines

This April 21, 2008, file photo shows wind turbines at the Harvest Wind Farm in Oliver Township, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri utility regulators on Wednesday unanimously approved Chicago-based Invenergy’s acquisition of the Grain Belt Express transmission line.

The Missouri Public Service Commission’s decision to approve the sale was a necessary step for Invenergy to buy the rights to construct the proposed line, which will carry electric power generated by wind farms in Kansas to eastern consumers.

Clean Line Energy Partners announced in November that it would sell rights to the transmission line to Invenergy.

The line, which will go through eight northern Missouri counties, would also deliver power to at least 350,000 Missourians and unlock energy savings of $12.8 million per year, based on contracts already reached with municipal utilities around the state.

“Following today’s unanimous acquisition decision by the Missouri Public Service Commission, Grain Belt Express now has all the necessary approvals from state regulators to proceed with project development,” Invenergy spokeswoman Beth Conley said in a statement.

“We are grateful for the PSC’s thorough review of one of the state’s largest energy infrastructure projects, and for their recognition that Invenergy has the track record and expertise to bring this $500 million investment to Missouri,” she said.

But the project still needs regulatory approval in Illinois, where an appeals court last year overturned the state’s previous approval.

The company has said that its structures will take up less than 10 acres of land throughout Missouri, not including land underneath transmission wires.

“Land in the easement can maintain its existing use, and landowners will be compensated fairly for the easement and any damages,” the company said in literature distributed to lawmakers.

After the PSC approved construction of the line earlier this year, the Republican-led Missouri House in April approved legislation forbidding the company from using eminent domain for the project.

“This is just another attempt by a private companies and a government commission to eliminate our personal liberties,” said Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford.

He said he wasn’t opposed to clean energy but was “opposed to a private company saying, ‘I’m gonna do this and you’re gonna like it — or else.’”

The legislation ultimately died in the Missouri Senate after a bipartisan group of senators filibustered the bill. The language may be reintroduced for debate next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.