Kelly calls for special session to discuss Ameren bill

By Matthew Patane

JEFFERSON CITY – With just a little more than two weeks left in Missouri’s legislative session, Columbia’s senior legislator has proposed that the governor call the lawmakers back into a special session for more debate on the nuclear power plant issue.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the bill to allow Ameren Missouri to raise rates for the costs of obtaining a federal nuclear plant permit was “dead” for the current legislative session, but the issue should continue to be examined.

“[The bill] is not passing because of a failure to come together and compromise,” Kelly said. “We should come back and do it and the governor should roll up his sleeves and get serious about the energy future.”

Passage of the bill would let Ameren Missouri charge its ratepayers between $40 to $45 million to cover the costs for seeking an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Under the various proposals before the legislature, the rate increases would not be imposed until the utility got the permit.

The measures also contain a “clawback” provision that requires Ameren to give back any money collected if the company decides to sell the site permit or discontinue construction.

Although the governor’s press secretary said “there is still a lot of time left” in the session for issues to be discussed, Kelly said he does not know if the special session will be granted. Kelly said he wants the Ameren bill to be reexamined because the construction of a second nuclear plant is “vital to Missouri’s long-time energy future” as well as the state’s economic growth.

“The plant is important to Missouri because it provides a long-term, stable source of base electric power,” Kelly said. “Every time you flip the switch, the lights have to go on, and we cannot achieve that with renewable sources yet, and nuclear is far superior to coal.”

The governor’s press secretary Scott Holste said “there is still a lot of time left” in the session for issues to be discussed.

Some of Ameren’s larger industrial consumers, such as Noranda Aluminum, which has a smelting plant located in southeastern Missouri, have criticized the bill for the additional costs Ameren could put on the companies to pay for the site permit. Kelly said he believes Ameren’s disagreement with these industrial companies is one reason why the bill is hung up in the legislature, but that it was a “resolvable problem.”

The House has not taken a vote on the proposal. In the Senate, two bills have been stalled in committee. Last week, an effort to attach the bill to another measure was ruled out-of-order by the Senate president pro tem, whose district includes the Noranda plant.

The other bills have been stalled in the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emerging Issues committees, chaired by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.