A group of consumer organizations and major corporations has lined up behind a new proposal letting Ameren-Missouri raise rates to pay for picking a new nuclear power plant site. Senator Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau says it balances Ameren’s needs with strong consumer protections.  Critics charge his proposal and others introduced earlier by other legislaors are trying to undermine the Construction Work in Progress law passed by voters in 1975.

The proposal says Ameren cannot spend more than $40 million on the process and must give back the money if it does not build the plant.  A key part of the bill that attracts the Consumers Council of Missouri is one greatly increasing funding for the office of public counsel.  That’s the agency that represents consumers in utility rate cases.  Council president Joan Bray says the plan would pump three million dollars into that office, something she says that is mandatory if the legislature is going to “gnaw away” at the Construction Work in Progress law adopted by voters in 1975 after a petition campaign led by nuclear power plant opponents.                          

Crowell’s proposal would assess customers of regulated utilities about six cents a month to pay for a consumer representative in Public Service commission rate cases. Supporters of his bill say the assessment would produce about $3 million dollars a year for the counsel’s office.  

Crowell heads the committee that will hear the bill next week. He says he’ll take up his bill and others that have been introduced on the same subject in the senate.  He’s prepared for a long discussion. “If it takes eight hours, it takes eight hours,” he says.

Listen to the news conference approx 16:00 mp3