Rev. Al Sharpton criticizes Ameren's response to outage
By Kevin Lavery, KWMU
St. Louis, MO – Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton is criticizing Ameren UE's progress in restoring power to thousands of people. He's leading the call for a rollback in utility rates.
Sharpton came to St. Louis at the request of the citizens' group ACORN.
He wants the state of Missouri to take a proposed rate hike Ameren filed on July 7 off the table.
Instead, Sharpton wants the utility to pay all its customers a 10% rebate.
Sharpton also accuses Ameren of economic discrimination.
"I've heard from several places that the higher the income, the more immediate the response - and that there's not been a fair and equal response to communities of working people and of color," Sharpton said.
ACORN St. Louis says before the power outage, Ameren laid off much of its staff to protect its profits.
But Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher says that's not true.
"We have had reductions in some areas, but not really in line workers," Gallagher said. "We work very hard to find line workers. We in fact added 100 field checkers to our staff just last year in the metro area."
Gallagher says St. Louis has the second lowest utility rates in the country, and that the company must recover its expansion costs.
The Missouri Public Service Commission could make a ruling on the matter by next June.