Morning round-up
9:27 am
Tue April 3, 2012

Morning headlines: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nixon heading to Brazil

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will be heading to Brazil on a trade mission later this month.

Nixon planned to announce more details of the trip during news conferences today in Springfield and Independence.

Last year, Missouri businesses sold $323 million worth of products to Brazil, which ranked as the state's 10th largest export market. Nixon's trip to the South American nation comes about six months after he led a trade delegation to China. Missouri's international exports totaled $14.1 billion in 2011, an all-time high.

Ameren announces plan to install smart meters

Ameren Illinois has announced plans to install 780,000 advanced electric meters, or so-called "smart meters," over 10 years.

The utility on Monday filed its plan with the Illinois Commerce Commission under the state's power-grid modernization law. Ameren serves central and southern Illinois, while Commonwealth Edison serves northern Illinois. Both are allowed to include the cost of the upgrades in rates under the law.

Ameren estimates the $625 million investment would increase annual costs for the typical residential customer by $34 over the next 10 years.

Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris says the utility hasn't finalized an installation schedule, but state law requires the meters to be in place for 62 percent of its customers by 2022.

The smart meters use radio signals to send the utility customer usage information.

Officials: powdery substance discovered at Blagojevich prison not hazardous

A white, powdery substance sent to the suburban Denver prison where convicted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is being held wasn't hazardous. The envelope, addressed to an inmate, was discovered Monday during routine mail screening at the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood.

Prison spokesman John Sell said a hazardous materials team found that the substance wasn't dangerous. He wouldn't say which inmate was the intended recipient.

Inmates weren't able to move around the prison while a hazardous materials team checked out the substance. Sell said local and federal law enforcement authorities were also notified.

Blagojevich reported to the prison March 15 to begin serving a 14-year sentence.