St. Louis Public Radio News
6:21 am
Wed April 22, 2009

Ameren's CWIP bill may be dead this year

Jefferson City , MO – One of the most controversial bills of the 2009 Missouri legislative session appears to be dead in the water.

It's the one that would allow exemptions to the Construction Work in Progress law (CWIP), which bars utilities from charging customers for new power plants while they're being built.

The bill has been blocked for weeks by a filibuster, and supporters now say it appears unlikely that a compromise can be reached.

State Senator Joan Bray (D, St. Louis) says the legislation would weaken the Public Service Commission's ability to regulate utilities.

"(Utility companies) could have raised their rates, and again that rate would never have to be rescinded...so the utility had a huge amount of power to raise rates and to do things in ways that never were going to be looked at again," Bray said.

AmerenUE has been backing the bill. The St. Louis-based utility says allowing exemptions to the CWIP law is the only way it can afford to build a second nuclear reactor at its plant near Fulton.

State Senator Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia), one of the bill's key backers, says getting supporters and opponents to agree on alternate versions has failed.

"The main parties involved have demonstrated an inability and an unwillingness to show any kind of compromise, and so I think everybody realizes that it's probably not going to come back up," Schaefer said.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has been one of the bill's most vocal opponents. Their officials say it would have resulted in higher electric bills for the elderly.