House Speaker Ron Richard says he’s in no hurry to push legislation that Missouri’s largest utility insists it needs to build a second nuclear power plant.
Speaker Richard, a Republican from Joplin, sees no need to rush through the Construction Work in Progress, or CWIP, legislation. Richard was surprised by the opposition to SB228 raised during a Senate hearing and infers that perhaps the issue is being rushed through.
"I remember from my years just watching the process that on really important pieces of legislation it always took two, three or four years to get things worked out," Richard tells Capitol reporters.
AmerenUE wants to overturn state law that prohibits a utility from charging ratepayers for the cost of building power plants during construction. Ameren says it cannot afford the up-front construction cost of between $6 and $9 billion dollars to build a second nuclear power plant in Callaway County and must be allowed to pass the costs on while the plant is going up.
Richard says he hasn’t gotten a feel for how the issue might fly in the House.
"Our guys in the House have told me, ‘We want open discussion and a long time to think about it and we’ll see’," Richard says, "No promises, but we’re going to have a long discussion about it."
Richard says he supports nuclear energy, especially if it can keep the cost of electricity low in Missouri. Richard, the former House Economic Development Committee Chairman, says one of Missouri’s main advantages in recruiting new companies is its low cost of electric power. He says the state must keep the cost per kilowatt hour low.
The House could craft its own legislation, but Richard says it is more likely that it will wait to see what the Senate does with its bill.
The Senate Commerce Committee heard more than three-and-a-half hours of
testimony on SB228 earlier in the week. A total of 35 witnesses testified before the panel, arguing both sides of the issue.
Ameren has argued that constructing a second nuclear power plant at Callaway would benefit the state, not just through lower electric rates, but through employment. AmerenUE President Tom Voss told the committee Ameren would employ about 12,000 construction workers to build the second plant with an estimated spin-off of 4,000 jobs. He estimated permanent employment at about 500.
The committee has yet to vote on the bill.