Missouri’s utility officials are watching the federal climate-change legislation. The Waxman-Markey bill is could be taken up by Congress this week … key legislators are still working with agriculture officials on controversial measures in the bill the ag industry says would unfairly penalize rural areas.

The study, by the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, says cap-and-trade for carbon emissions could increase the electric rate in Missouri by 10 percent in 2015 … and raise it by as much as 80 percent in 20 years.

Robert Clayton, chairman of the Public Service Commission, says Missouri would be one of the states harder hit by the legislation, since a lot of our state’s energy comes from coal. However, Clayton says legislators continue to rework the language of the bill, and a lot depends on the final version of the bill.

And, he says, the PSC wants to be proactive rather than reactive in lowering carbon emissions. Clayton says the federal stimulus funding has provided numerous grants and programs, such as for weatherization in low-income homes, and he says Missourians need to take advantage of what’s are available. The PSC is working with the Department of Natural Resources on some of those programs, he says.

“That’s the message we’re trying to get out to consumers,” he says. “You need to take advantage of programs out there to take control of your energy and cut down on how much energy you use because ultimately that will help you save money.”

Energy program information is on the commission’s Web site at psc.mo.gov.

And he says the PSC wants to be a resource for legislators looking at the bill, and provide useful analysis and research.

Missouri should continue to look at nuclear power.

Legislators are still working with the Agriculture industry, which says rural areas would be hardest hit by the increases. Clayton says a lot depends on the final language of the bill, which could be taken up by the end of this week.

Missouri should continue to look at nuclear energy, he says, despite the failure of a bill this session that would let Ameren UE charge rate payers while the plant is under construction.

“Nuclear is expensive to build but then is efficient and may be an appropriate source to look at in future cap-and-trade rules,” he tells the Missourinet.

Echoing the main concern of this week’s forum looking at the study, Clayton says, “Any legislation that restricts carbon emissions is going to affect a state that relies on coal energy. We’ve benefitted from the low cost over the years and I hope our congressional legislation is mindful of actions they can include,” such as rebates for residential or commercial interests that would be majorly impacted. “I think they have that in mind.”