Missouri lawmakers have passed a far-reaching utility bill that satisfies the state’s largest electric companies after years of haggling in the legislature.

The bill changes the way regulated utilities negotiate rates with the state by allowing them to more quickly recover the cost of infrastructure upgrades.  It would give them more flexibility to change customer rates by introducing new accounting practices.

The measure would impact roughly 2 million customers of the state’s large investor-owned utilities, including Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light, and Empire Electric District.

Ameren has claimed the plan opens up the power grid to $1 billion in long-needed infrastructure upgrades while limiting rate hikes.  The bill caps rate hikes at 2.85 or 3% per year, depending on the service area.

An analysis from state regulators says the legislation could lead to an almost 10% increase in customer rates over the next 10 years.

The measure also calls on the utilities to reduce rates by roughly 5% to compensate for a large federal corporate tax cut the companies are realizing.

Ameren says its customers will see the rate reduction within 90 days after the bill is signed into law.  But consumer groups contend the adjustment was held up by the legislation itself, which they say was used as a bargaining chip to pass the bill.

The bill was approved by the House Wednesday 125-20.  It cleared the Senate back in February after an all-night filibuster from chamber members who are critical of the motivations of Ameren Missouri.  Ameren has a strong presence in the legislature with nearly 50 lobbyists in Jefferson City.

The measure now goes the Governor’s Office for consideration.

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