Posted Online: Nov. 02, 2012, 11:15 pm

Morthland and Smiddy duel over Smart Grid

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By Eric Timmons etimmons@qconline.com

State Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, says he's the subject of false attacks from his opponent, Democrat Mike Smiddy, involving smart grid legislation and the Rock Island County Clean Line, two contentious issues.

A mailer sent by Mr. Smiddy, of Hillsdale, to residents of state representative district 71 said Rep. Morthland voted "for a deal with a utility company that put a taxpayer financed electric grid on his property and cash into his pockets."

Rep. Morthland did vote in favor of the smart grid, which allows utility companies to increase rates in Illinois in return for improving the electrical grid.But Rep. Morthland, who farms near Cordova, lives in a part of the state covered by MidAmerican, which was not part of the smart grid agreement.

Rep. Morthland said the mailer also could be interpreted as referring to the Rock Island Clean Line, a proposed 500-mile high-voltage transmission line to bring energy from wind farms to areas with heavier population.

The clean line could pass through Rep. Morthland's land but he has not received any money from the project, which also will not be funded with tax dollars.Legislation that eased the regulatory burden for projects like the clean line was passed before Rep. Morthland was elected.

"Mike Smiddy's attacks are nothing but lies and distortionsof the facts," he said. "It's time to set the record straight so voters can make an informed choice on election day."

Mr. Smiddy has accused Rep. Morthland of flip-flopping on the Clean Line project.

Rep. Morthland initially supported the project but now opposes it because the Illinois Farm Bureau is against it. The farm bureau does not want the Clean Line be pushed through using eminent domain laws, Rep. Morthland said.

"Rep. Morthland has shown a serious lapse in leadership on issues vital to the people of this district," Mr. Smiddy said. "Our next legislator needs to say what he means and mean what he says."

Mr. Smiddy also opposes the Clean Line if it's route is secured through eminent domain, a law that allows government or its agents to seize private property after paying compensation.

Rock Island Clean Line officials say they plan to get access to land for their project by negotiating with farmers and would only apply for eminent domain from the state if those efforts fail.

Some farmers could benefit financially from the Rock Island Clean Line, which would pay them for easements and also between $6,000 and $18,000 to erect support structures for the proposed transmission line.