Neighbors United 4 MO

Fighting for property rights and local control in Missouri

Month: March 2017

We Got a Hearing!

The Utilities Committee has scheduled a hearing!!

Thank you Rocky Miller!!

Please join us in Jefferson City to support Rep Nate Walker’s HB640 & HB795 to stop eminent domain abuse in Missouri!

Hearing Location and Time
MO House of Representatives
House Hearing Room 5
4/5/2017 – 5:00 P.M.

Link to Utilities Committee Hearing Schedule

Please wear red in support of our bills!

Block Grain Belt Express NEWS RELEASE

NEWS RELEASE: The Battle for Property Rights Still Electrifying the Prairie

For Immediate Release:
Jennifer Gatrel
660-232-1280
jenny@steelfencing.biz

Please feel free to edit for length or clarity.

The Battle for Property Rights Still Electrifying the Prairie:

The small savings offered to municipalities cannot overcome the tremendous burden to Missouri landowners that would come with the Grain Belt Express, says Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri, in the wake of last week’s evidentiary hearing before the Missouri Public Service Commission.

“A majority of the Commissioners denied the project in 2015 because the burden on affected agricultural businesses and landowners was so great,” said spokesperson Jennifer Gatrel. “Nothing has changed.”

Claimed savings for municipalities were concocted with irrelevant and speculative studies which supposedly showed the savings from the Grain Belt line. The actual savings were much less than claimed when examined at the hearing.
Missouri Landowners Alliance (MLA) provided unquestioned expert testimony from agricultural experts and business owners demonstrating the huge financial burden GBE would place on citizens across northern Missouri. MLA expert Don Lowenstein testified that local tax benefits claimed by GBE could not be accurately predicted beyond the first year and that actual tax benefits to localities are likely to be much less than promised by GBE and its witness. Expert appraiser Kurt Kielisch provided testimony demonstrating property value decline and other impacts to agricultural and rural residential property that would be caused by GBE. A Ralls County Commissioner also provided testimony refuting GBE’s claims of local benefit, and declaring his staunch opposition to the project.

The Missouri Public Service Commission Staff, who acts as an advisory party in the public interest, continues to maintain their position that GBE must receive approval to cross county roads from the commission of each county where the line is proposed before the PSC can approve GBE’s application. Today, the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals issued a decision on county consent related to the recent Ameren transmission case, finding that that the PSC cannot issue a permit until after all the consents of the county commissions are obtained. The Court vacated the PSC’s decision in the Ameren case, where a conditional permit was issued before county consents were obtained. Grain Belt Express does not have county consent. (https://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=111179)

“At the hearing, I learned that GBE hugely discounted its service in its offer to Missouri municipalities in order to gain a toehold in the state, and that the normal price of GBE’s transmission service is five times the number offered to the municipalities. There are currently no takers for service to Missouri at the regular price. If GBE cannot find customers willing to absorb the loss created by the offer to the municipalities and make the project profitable, is there any guarantee that GBE will even build the station in Missouri proposed to serve municipalities?” asked group President Russ Piscotta after watching the hearings.

“We are nearly four years into this fight” stated Jennifer Gatrel. Property rights are the backbone of farming and ranching. We keep on winning because we can’t afford to lose. Somehow, someway we will always find a way to protect what we hold dear. It has been the most amazing journey of my life seeing so many diverse people come together from across the country to fight a common wrong.
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Background: Grain Belt Express is a $2.7B, 700-mile high-voltage direct current transmission line purposed to move electricity from Western Kansas to Indiana and eastern markets. The speculative venture seeks profit for its investors from electricity market price differentials.”

Check out their website: http://blockgbemo.com/

Facebook: @blockgrainbeltexpressmo

Neighbors United Wins Appeal!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Powerline Press Release Regarding the Western District Court of Appeals Decision of March 28, 2017.

We the members of Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Powerline would like to thank everyone who supported us in our effort to prevent ATXI from building a project that had no input from the people it would affect the most – Us, the citizens of Adair, Knox, Marion, Shelby and Schuyler counties. We would like to thank the county commissioners who continued to listen to their constituent’s concerns about the project and decided that what was in the best interest of the citizens was to affirmatively say NO! to the project. They listened to the citizens and not the pressure from big business or the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC). We would also like to thank our attorneys Jennifer Hernandez, and Arturo “Art” Hernandez for their hard work and dedication in litigating the case through the PSC and the Appellate Court.

Yesterday, March 28, 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District issued its decision in the Mark Twain Transmission Line Project. In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals vacated the Report and Order issued by the PSC. The court ruled that a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN), which grants the utility the authority to build the transmission project, can only be issued after a utility has received permission from a county to build a power line. This decision negates the CCN that was granted by the PSC last year. That CCN had approved the line on the condition that ATXI obtain the permission to hang the lines over county roads from each of the 5 affected counties. The CCN granted overstepped the PSC’s authority, because the hearing should never have been heard unless and until the PSC received the county assents given to the utility.

This is a tremendous victory for our members and our local government. For almost three years local citizens of these 5 counties have struggled to have their voices and concerns heard. Too often big corporations, like ATXI, come into our communities and talk about knowing what is in the best interest, and then bring big money to try to drown out the local citizenry. They rely on statements like “in the best interest of the state,” “lower costs,” “future opportunities,” etc. They forget that people, like the members of Neighbors United, who work the land, live in the community, raise families, pay taxes and vote, need to have a voice in the process as well. When the local citizens try to give their input, companies like ATXI turn around and demonize the hard working people who only want to protect their livelihood and property.

Yesterday every one of the citizens of the 5 counties involved in opposing the Mark Twain Transmission Line Project were vindicated. Not only were the citizens of the counties directly affected finally justified, but all of the citizens of Missouri were on the right side of the law. Yesterday, the courts guaranteed that the voices of the individual citizens in this great state should be and can be heard. The courts vindicated what we, the members of Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Power Line have been saying since 2014 – big business must cooperate with local government and individuals for the good of everyone.  The process of approving CCN’s and utility applications by the PSC must be accompanied by input of local government and citizens.

The input of our elected county officials is just as important as that of the engineers, the input of state and federal agencies, the big money, the profits, and the convenience of conglomerates such as ATXI. For the past 3 years, we have fought to have our voices heard. Yesterday, the court gave a voice to the farmers, ranchers and local citizens of Neighbors United, as well as to all of the citizens of Missouri. They ensured that local governments are not overlooked or ignored. They guaranteed local governments a place in the decision making processes that affect their constituents the most.

For More Information please contact counsel for Neighbors United. :

Arturo A. Hernandez III

Attorney At Law

GIBBS, POOL & TURNER, P.C.

3325 Emerald Lane, Suite A.

Jefferson City, MO 65109

Phone: 573-636-2614

Fax: 573-636-6541

E-Mail: AHernandez@gptlaw.net

ATTORNEY FOR NEIGHBORS UNITED AGAINST AMEREN’S POWERLINE

The Western District Court of Appeals Ruled in Favor of Missouri Landowners!

The Western District Court of Appeals Ruled in Favor of Missouri Landowners!

We are so grateful that the Western District Court of Appeals upheld the laws and statues of Missouri. While this is great, we still have a lot to do to protect our land and property rights. So keep sending letters and calling!

The court concluded that:

“The PSC’s Report and Order is vacated as it was entered in excess of the PSC’s statutory authority.”

Read entire opinion here

The Fabric of Our Family

They say we are a “dot” on a map.

Let me tell you about my dot.

My husband bought 120 acres of ground in 1970 after he graduated from high school. One of the reasons why my husband wanted this land is because it connects to his parent’s place and cows can easily be herded between the two tracts of land.

My husband and I were married in 1973. There was a 1-1/2 story house on this land when my husband bought it. We remodeled this house and turned it into our home. During the remodeling, we included a large picture window in the front of the house so that we can enjoy the beautiful view of the sky, trees and rolling hills from our living room. The proposed transmission line would be the prominent view from this window.

Currently, we have 60 cow-calf pairs on this land. The rule of thumb is 1.5 to 2 acres will support a cow-calf pair. Our herd is well within that ratio. A large, 40 foot deep pond that we built in 2000, waters this herd. This is the only source of water for our cows other than a creek that runs through the property, but in drought years, the creek is dry. Without the pond, the cows would have to walk a mile away to drink water. It takes weight off of cattle when they have to walk so far to water and loss of weight equals loss of income. Additionally, we often use the pond with our daughters when they come to visit for boating, swimming and fishing. The pond is stocked with catfish and is a great place to retreat and relax after a hard day.

One of the single shaft steel poles holding up the proposed transmission line is planned to be placed behind the pond’s dam, with the potential line hanging right across the water. The road to get to the pole would go directly over a concrete pad and waterer that we have situated behind our pond for the cows. It is terrifying to think of using the pond for watering cattle or for recreation with a 345,000 volt transmission line hanging over it! We only have 20 additional acres where our cattle can graze during construction of this potential line. How are we supposed to support 60 cow-calf pairs on 20 acres of pasture when that’s only enough ground to support 10-13 pairs? Is it right that we would have to sell our cattle or use up all of the feed we have stored for winter so that a power line can be built through our land?

Farming is our life. The land is part of the fabric of our family. This is where we work, play and relax. It is our inheritance and the inheritance we intend to pass on to our two daughters. It is our retirement. We have been farming for over 40 years and have added additional acres of land to our holdings along the way. Most of these tracts join the original 120 acres that my husband bought in 1970. It is on those sections of land that we grow soy beans, corn and hay to feed our livestock and to sell as a cash crop.

We will be farming and raising cattle until we pass on, at which time our daughters plan to continue as the fourth generation in our family to farm. Our oldest daughter wants to raise cattle while our youngest daughter wishes to plant crops. They have grown up helping us on the farm and know their way around machinery and animals. Farming and raising livestock is a good life. Why should our lives be turned upside down because of an unnecessary transmission line? It is appalling that a corporation is trying to maximize their profits off of the backs of farmers who have worked tirelessly for the lives that they love.

This is my dot.

If this power line goes through, this could happen to you – this could be your dot.

“It must be that Pioneer Grandmother of yours in Missouri!”

   

      I am from Missouri.  Although I’ve lived away most of my life, the family farm is always the place we called ‘home.’  It is now a Missouri Century Farm.

     In 1915, my grandfather purchased his first parcel and a year later, married my grandmother.  They raised my father there.  He grew up, went to World War II in the Pacific, and still wanting to serve his country,  joined the U.S. Department of State for a 20 year career overseas in USAID.

     On ‘Home Leave’ from overseas we always stayed several months at Grandma and Grandad’s farm in Missouri. Sometimes my brother and I went to school in Novelty and Edina.  Many of our best memories, of fishing, raising our own piglets to market for our first savings accounts, laughing at the cows sneaking up on us at the pond, Sunday dinners, holiday feasts, farm style,  with the cousins, grandma’s home crafts and gardening, have all had a huge impact on my adult life.  Their quality of life, their thriftiness, their model for the rewards of hard work, all stayed with me.  Someone once said of my work ethic, ‘it must be that Pioneer Grandmother of yours in Missouri!”

     My grandparents were never rich.  Together they worked the land.  With my parents’ help and strong savings ethics, the family gradually bought adjacent and nearby parcels, building the Century Farm it is today.

     Retiring from work in Kenya, my folks returned to live out the rest of their days at the farm. Mom came home early and contracted the building of a new home on the farm, detailed indoors with recycled barn wood from an antique barn on the property. 

     Dad and Mom were active in conservation programs, building ponds, planting orchards, multiple tree plantations, being awarded State Tree Farmer designation one year.  As they aged, my husband Bob and I traveled out several times a year to plant more and prune, and participate in creating Dad’s dreams for improving the land, maintaining buildings, and growing the tree farm.  We even did a trial lavender farm.

     Now, the folks are gone, yet the trees remain.  So does Grandad’s renovated barn, which I hope to use as my Missouri pottery studio in my retirement.  Having a power line run fewer than 1000 feet from my workspace is not part of my dream.  Nor is having a private company mow down a 35 year old stand of Dad’s trees.  Nor are towering power lines crossing the terraced fields, passing too near the home place, too close to our buildings.

     Home is where the heart is, and my dot is my place to call home

I had Ties to this Land long before it was Mine

They told us that it was “our dot” on a map.

A dot.

Our history, family, hard work and futures!

You know what my dot is?

     I bought my farm from an elderly women who, with her husband, built the house in which I live in 1920.  I rented the pasture from this couple before he passed away and continued to rent from her and to help her with upkeep to the farm until she died; so my tie to this place began way before I bought it in the late 80’s.  My home is situated on 80 acres near my parents’ place which would also be impacted by this potential power line. Mom and Dad bought their farm in the early 70’s and have farmed it and pastured cattle on it ever since. I worked the cattle and the land together with my dad until he passed away.

     The route of the proposed power line slices through the middle of my 80 acres, passing 300 to 400 feet away from my home. It continues across the road on our neighbor and then catches my mom’s farm which impacts another 40 acres – a total of 120 acres in all for my family!  If this power line goes through, the use of heavy equipment and concrete being poured across both of these tracts of land to hold up the poles has a tendency to condense the soil making it less productive; the ground will never recover from this soil compaction.  And worse, as a realtor, I know the value of my property and that of my mother’s will drop 35% should this transmission line come to fruition.  All the while I’m potentially hearing the hum of a needless power line generating millions of dollars in profits for a greedy company.

This is my dot.

If this power line goes through, you may be next.

You could be their next “dot on a map.”

Working to Save our Land!

On Wednesday, March 8th, a group of about 35 MO residents and landowners traveled to Jefferson City and met with 22 Legislators. We caught 18 more either in the halls or their offices and handed out 40 packets of information about Rep. Nate Walker’s Bills.  Rep. Galen Higdon added his name as a co-sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Jim Hansen & Rep. Jim Neely joined us at the start of our day to make brief remarks in support of the bills and the fight against Eminent Domain Abuse.

We were able to share our concerns regarding transmission line effects on farming procedures and soil compaction with legislators. Later that afternoon, we found out that  HB 640 and HB 795 were referred to the House Utilities Committee! Our next challenge is to get Rep. Rocky Miller to set a hearing date.

You Can’t Put the Cart Before the Horse

On March 7th, sixteen concerned landowners attended a hearing regarding an appeal of the Missouri Public Service Commission‘s decision to grant ATXI a conditional certificate of need. Our lawyer, Art Hernandez argued a great case against ATXI and the MO PSC. The judges grilled the PSC and ATXI lawyers. Let’s hope that the judges do the right thing.