Lawmaker and Environmentalist Clash Over Financing for Nuclear Power Plant

Mark Hodges, KMOX Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX)  – Although only a few weeks remain in the legislative session, representatives from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Renew Missouri took to the Capitol Monday to criticize a bill that would allow Ameren to increase its rates to pay for construction costs before a new reactor is built.

The bill has been debated in one form or another for the past several years but never passed. It would allow Ameren to increase its rates to pay for an early site permit for an additional power plant. If the bill passes, Ameren could take up to $45 million from its customers to pay for the site permit.

Ed Smith, safe energy director with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said increasing the rates would be unfair.

“I will not go to a car dealer and start giving them money years in advance for a vehicle that I may never drive,” Smith said. “So why should I be forced to give my utility money years in advance for a nuclear reactor that may never be built?”

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, is the bill sponsor. He said the timing and arguments of this press conference didn’t make much sense.

“Right now, there’s really no logical reason anyone would belong to their organization unless you’re a provider of wind or solar energy trying to get the government to mandate your product,” Lager said. “They’re just trying to keep membership. Sometimes, right or wrong, when people start to lose their position of strength in this building, sometimes they have to reinvent the reality of what’s occurring.”

Ameren has considered building a second nuclear plant for decades. But in 1976, voters supported legislation that outlawed the practice of billing customers before a plant is actually finished.

Lager said he doesn’t think that kind of funding will even be an issue in Missouri since a new partnership means Ameren can start the construction process without an early site permit.

“I think it’s safe to say the whole early site permit, in its totality, is no longer necessary,” Lager said.

But P.J. Wilson, Director of Renew Missouri, said his group is preparing for any situation.

“We considered canceling the talk because Ameren is saying they don’t want to be on board [with the rate increases],” Wilson said. “But we don’t trust Ameren.”

Lager said it’s doubtful any action will be taken on this bill before the session ends on May 18.

Link:  SB859

  • MCE Defends CWIP Prohibition & Challenges Nuke License Renewal | Missouri Coalition for the Environment

    […] For the past two years, Ameren Missouri has worked hard to un-do our state’s law by seeking to make ratepayers pay for an ‘early site permit’ for a new nuke plant with help from some hand-picked legislators. It would erode our law against paying in advance for power plants. In this report, Senator Lager lays on the insults to defend his attempts to get ratepayers to pick up the tab for Ameren’s nuclear investments- while admitting the whole ‘early site permit’ is actually unnecessary. Lager sinks to new lows with insults because he’s out of ideas. See here. […]

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