Brian Smith

It is pretty cool that the largest proposed infrastructure project in Missouri would generate thousands of construction jobs, save hundreds of thousands of Missourians billions of dollars over its lifetime, and deliver reliable clean energy for decades to come.

The Grain Belt Express and Tiger Connector, which is under consideration now, needs the support of Missourians from around the state who would benefit from this project.

New transmission is needed to connect renewable energy to population centers as coal plants continue to close. This essential project will lower energy costs for customers by around 6% between 2027-2066, saving people an estimated $17.6 billion. All told, the Grain Belt Express will deliver up to 2,500 megawatts of safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy to Missouri — enough to power 1.6 million homes.

The economic benefits do not stop there. Lowering electric costs is attractive for municipalities attracting new businesses while adding to the tax base of rural communities throughout the state. A truncated list of municipal benefits include $10 million in sales and property taxes for Chariton County, half a million dollars to the education of 3,731 students in Randolph county, and $142 million dollars a year in savings for Shelbina. The city of Kirkwood will be able to reach its clean energy goals while Lebanon will be able to meet the clean energy needs of its top two manufacturers.

But wait, there’s more. Missourians and downwind communities will enjoy cleaner air thanks to this project.

The social cost of cleaner air and avoided health expenses is estimated to save people $7.6 billion. This project would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in Missouri by 9.3%, 19.2% and 17.2%, respectively. These pollutants are harmful to human health as they reduce the quality of life for families and contribute to premature deaths.

New transmission is necessary to prevent rolling blackouts from extreme weather and create resilience and redundancy in case of physical or virtual attacks. According to expert testimony, the Grain Belt and Tiger Connector would have saved customers who live in the Southwest Power Pool, a regional grid that covers western Missouri, $300 million.

Here’s where you come in. The project needs approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission, which regulates these sorts of things. The PSC already approved the main Grain Belt line. It is essential that all Missourians, both urban and rural, speak up in favor of the Tiger Connector by submitting comments to the PSC before it reaches a decision on whether or not to approve the expanded project plan.

Brian Smith is an organizing representative with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, which seeks to move utilities out of fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy that will create jobs and protect public health. This column first appeared in the Missouri Independent.

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