By a vote of 6-4, the Senate Commerce Committee has approved SB 228 – the Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) bill to allow AmerenUE – the state’s largest electric utility – to charge ratepayers for the construction costs of a second nuclear plant in Callaway County while the facility is still being built.
The version voted on by the panel is a substitute put forward by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), who addressed concerns expressed by consumer groups.
"The ratepayers, if the license is sold or the plant is sold, the ratepayers get paid back what they paid in," explained Schaefer. "Plus interest with all proceeds beyond that point being distributed by the PSC."
Senator John Griesheimer (R-Washington) has reservations about the substitute, but acknowledges the state is in need of another power plant.
"I still know that there’s still some components of this that I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong, said Griesheimer. "I do know we do need another power plant in this state and I’ve tried to explain this to some people that one way or the other you’re going to pay whether you pay now or when you buy electricity from some other supplier in another state."
Griesheimer also vented his frustration over a telephone call campaign launched by opponents of the effort to change the CWIP law.
"Now we got all these damn phone calls – and that’s what I’m gonna say – damn phone calls and e-mails that just infuriate me to no end," said a frustrated Griesheimer. "I don’t think there’s anybody on this committee or in this Senate who can answer our phones because of all the phone calls that have come. And, it’s all the lies, the distortion that’s going on. The whole process disgusts me."
The legislation now goes to the full Senate. Similar legislation has cleared a House committee and awaits further action in the House.