Clean Line, you lose.
Clean Line is done in Illinois. That means Grain Belt Express, too.
And it's not just a matter of exercising an option to purchase a site for a converter station. Only somebody who didn't read the entire opinion would say something that stupid. The Court simply declined to dig any further beyond the issue of the statutory requirement for a public utility to own utility property that is currently in use as a utility. Simply buying a piece of property that it may, in the future, use to construct utility infrastructure, isn't going to cut it. The Court said that Clean Line is free to construct its project without a permit and without eminent domain authority, and then apply again for public utility status from the ICC.
Nothing in the Public Utilities Act prohibits new entrants such as Rock Island from commencing development of transmission lines immediately as a purely private project. So long as they do not transact business as a public utility, they will not be subject to the Public Utilities Act and will not require Commission authority to proceed. Once their projects are further underway and they have obtained the ownership, management, or control of utility-related property or equipment required to qualify as public utilities, they may then seek certification to operate as public utilities if they wish to conduct their business in a way that would make them subject to the Public Utilities Act’s regulatory framework.
Requiring new entrants to proceed in this way may make the initial phase of their operations more difficult and cumbersome. For example, they will not have the benefit of eminent domain to obtain the property on which their facilities will be located. In Rock Island’s case, however, that particular problem should be no obstacle. As we have noted, the company has not sought, is not seeking, and represents that it may never ask for eminent domain power.
Give up, Clean Line. You are done for. Run out of Mayberry on a rail. There is no way forward. Hello, bankruptcy. Goodbye, Clean Line.