Recent passage of Nebraska Legislative Bill 155 provides landowners opposed to the R-Project a new means of challenging the power line in court. The inclusion of the term “rebuttable presumption” gives an opportunity to challenge in court whether the use of eminent domain to provide access to private property for construction of a power line for a privately developed wind turbine project is a public use.
Since this law has been enacted and the Nebraska Public Power District has not received any approval for R-Project construction, the project can be challenged in court.
One of the recognized purposes of the R-Project is to provide a means for power generated at private wind energy facilities to be added to an interstate power grid. There have already been plans indicated for construction of a large wind turbine facility — the so-called Cascade Project — in southern Cherry County north of Thedford. It would likely interconnect to the R-Project at Thedford.
Many landowners along the proposed power line route are opposed to the project and have not signed an access agreement with NPPD. The power company would thus have to use eminent domain to get access to private property to build a transmission line that would be necessary to transport power developed by for-profit wind energy companies. Money used by NPPD, a quasi-public entity, to construct the R-Project would benefit a privately owned business.
There is also strong opposition because the selected route would damage portions of the unique Sandhills and be a threat to endangered species such as the American burying beetle and whooping crane. The power line would also diminish cultural resources, create a health hazard and damage heritage ranch land. Some of these unique resources were specifically recognized in LB 155, which was signed into law on May 17 by Gov. Pete Ricketts.