The Senate Commerce Committee hears more than three-and-a-half hours of testimony on legislation that would allow public utilities to charge ratepayers for facilities while those facilities are still under construction. A total of 35 witnesses testified before the panel, arguing both in favor of and against Senate Bill 228 – the co-called Construction Work in Progress or CWIP legislation.
The key player in this controversy is AmerenUE – the state’s largest electric utility – which wants the 1976 ban on CWIP charges to be overturned to allow the company to have ratepayers pay for the costs of building a second nuclear power plant at the utility’s Callaway County nuclear facility in mid-Missouri. Ameren’s Tom Voss told the panel this project can be very positive for the state.
"This will be a good project," says Voss. "It’ll be one of the best construction projects in the state. We think it will create about 12,000 jobs during the construction period and we think the spin-off effect will even be something like 4,000 jobs. After it’s once in service we’ll have about 500 permanent workers there."
Several concerns were expressed by opponents, including the transfer of risk from the utility to the ratepayer. Lewis Mills with the Office of Public Counsel sees the bill as a bad piece of legislation. "Senate Bill 228 is really not a good place to begin a discussion a bout how to move forward," said Mills. "Rather than a thoughtful attempt to se what it might take to treat AmerenUE and its ratepayers fairly, it essentially is a utility wish list."
The committee took no action on the bill.