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Who Pays For New Power Plants in MO? Debate Heats Up in Jeff City

February 10, 2009

Jefferson City, MO - Missouri's energy debate is about to go nuclear. Today, lawmakers wrangle over Senate Bill 228, which would overturn a 1976 law that keeps utilities from charging customers for a power plant that is not yet built. The debate has been triggered by St. Louis-based AmerenUE's application to build a second mid-Missouri nuclear reactor, with a price tag of $6 billion.

Consumer groups say they're leery of the costs. Bob Quinn, executive director, Missouri Association for Social Welfare, believes ratepayers should not absorb the risk.

"This is just another, very large step in that same direction of putting the risk on the ratepayers, and taking it off the people who run the company and make the profit from the company."

Industry executives contend that billion-dollar facilities aren't affordable without recouping some costs as the plants are built. They also point out that the project would provide thousands of new jobs in Callaway County. Several senators, however, have raised concerns about overturning a voter-approved law.

To Kathleen Logan-Smith, executive director, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, SB 228 is like giving utility companies a blank check, while many of its customers are struggling to make ends meet in the recession.

"We're going to be giving them money that's going to cover that, when they get it up and running. When it's powering our light bulbs, we're going to be paying for it. So, why pay for it in advance?"

The hearings are scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Although the bill allows for other renewable energy companies to take part, AmerenUE has been the primary force behind it.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO