Missouri senators consider need to change 35-year-old utility rate law

They came together to discuss whether Missouri utility ratepayers should help pay the costs for an electric company’s getting a nuclear plant early site permit, if the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission okays the request.

For nearly seven hours last week, a Senate committee heard comments on two different bills that would allow Ameren Missouri, or another electric utility, to get the Public Service Commission’s approval to charge ratepayers for those costs — even though voters in 1976 approved a law that prohibits utilities from adding development and construction costs to the rate base until the plant is providing power.

The law generally is known as “construction work in progress,” or CWIP, and part of the hearing explored whether it needs to be ended.

“We don’t like the idea of repealing a law passed by the voters in 1976,” said former state lawmaker Joan Bray, D-University City, who now chairs the board of the Consumers Council of Missouri.

But, with CWIP in place, said William Downey, president of Kansas City Power and Light Co., the challenge becomes raising capital through investors and loans that can pay for — and complete — a major project.

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And he has a recent experience to cite as an example — the completion and start-up of the $2 billion Iatan 2 coal-fired power plant in Platte County, north of Kansas City.

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