OPINION: Missouri House of Representatives should not pick winners and losers

By David Bentley

David Bentley
This week, the Missouri House of Representatives passed HB1062, a bill that will effectively stop the Grain Belt Express Transmission line project (GBX). While you might not have heard about this project, it was recently approved by a unanimous vote of the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) who granted GBX final approval to proceed. HB1062 seems to be picking winners and losers.

As a family farmer and landowner, I know something about land, development, and progress. Specifically, to my community of Marshall, the GBX project will mean approximately $14 million in total savings over 20 years for our town. These are real savings passed on to the consumers, homeowners, small businesses owners, manufacturers, and yes, farmers.

The GBX transmission project will deliver low-cost electricity to Missouri homes and businesses far and wide across our state. Today, 39 Missouri communities serving a population of over 350,000 people are signed on to realize at least $12.8 million in annual savings for their customers. I’m encouraged that so many farm towns have already taken the first step to participate in GBX and I hope that even more communities will.

Growth, progress, and economic development are vital to our state. On my farm, I have transmission lines that cross my property and have worked with the local municipal utility on the placement and payment. They are just and fair. I recognize that they must have the ability to place a line to provide power to my neighbors and community. And, I’ve been fairly compensated in the process. The protections I’m afforded are approved by the PSC. In reviewing the GBX plan, the benefits to the state at large cannot be overlooked and the protections to the folks along the way are written to their benefit.

The approved transmission route in Missouri will benefit the state through approximately $500 million in direct investment to develop and build the project. It will put more than 1,500 Missourians to work building the line and generate more than $7.2 million in new tax revenue for eight Missouri counties. But make no mistake, the project is poised to benefit the entire state. And, at a time when infrastructure is vitally needed, this project comes seeking no state subsidies.

In my community, it lowers costs to the local municipal utility which in turn benefits myself and all other rate-payers through the resulting savings. But it also benefits the water rates as our town pumps the water using the lower-cost electrical rates that the GBX will provide. As a hog farmer who uses a lot of water, I’m confident the savings will benefit my farm.

The Missouri General Assembly sets a bad precedence with HB1062, by picking winners and losers. Today it appears to be the GBX project, tomorrow what? Their debate seems more heavy-handed against progress.

David Bentley is a family farmer in Marshall, Mo.