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Bill Seeks to Shine Light On Utility Profits

PHOTO: Missourians have no way of knowing if the state's utility companies are making more or less than the amount set by regulators, but that would change under a bill supported by AARP in Missouri. Photo credit: diegotecno via morguefile.com
PHOTO: Missourians have no way of knowing if the state's utility companies are making more or less than the amount set by regulators, but that would change under a bill supported by AARP in Missouri. Photo credit: diegotecno via morguefile.com
April 11, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Consumer advocates are calling on Missouri lawmakers to force the state's investor-owned utility companies to let the public know just how much they're earning.

John Coffman, an energy consultant for AARP in Missouri, says the Utility Transparency and Fairness Act would require Missouri's investor-owned utilities, including Ameren Missouri and Kansas City Power and Light, to disclose their quarterly earnings, which he says would help keep them from over-earning at their customers' expense.

"The overall profit that a regulated utility is earning, I think, is a matter of great public interest,” he stresses. “And it should be open and transparent for the public to view, and it involves a great deal of money that the public is paying through rates."

Because the utilities operate as regulated monopolies, the amount of profit they're allowed to make is set by the state's Public Service Commission.

However, earnings reports filed with the PSC are kept confidential.

Coffman says the legislation would still protect the companies' trade secrets while giving the public the transparency it deserves.

Coffman adds consumers have the right to know if the rates they are paying are fair, as utility bills are one of the most pressing financial issues for Missourians.

He points to the fact that those rates have increased by more than 40 percent over the past six years in many parts of the state.

"These are big burdens that folks have had to pay – that's residential customers as well as small business customers – and these increases have come during a very difficult economic period," he points out.

Coffman says Senate Bill 944 also would require regulators to balance the needs of customers with the expectations of investors when determining a utility company's appropriate profit level.



Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO