Mo. Senate panel OKs utility surcharge measure
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri power companies could seek a surcharge for infrastructure projects under a proposal endorsed Wednesday by a Senate energy committee.
Utilities could ask to levy the infrastructure surcharge between formal rate cases before the state Public Service Commission. Regulators would have 150 days to review requests instead of 11 months as in full rate cases. To qualify, improvements must replace, add or extend the life of infrastructure and already be in service.
It could apply to property involved with generation, transmission, distribution, sale or furnishing of electricity but not administrative office buildings or newly built or acquired generating plants. It also could be used for projects needed to comply with government environmental and safety rules.
Proponents have said allowing an infrastructure surcharge would encourage quicker reinvestment in electrical infrastructure, boost reliability and create jobs. They also point to a 2003 law allowing gas and water utilities to request a surcharge for infrastructure costs. Critics have said the legislation would make it easier to increase electric bills and would allow rate increases without consideration of the full financial picture by regulators. They contend water and gas utilities faced a different situation than power companies now do.
A coalition of investor-owned power companies, Missouri Electric Alliance, formed to push the legislation. It includes St. Louis-based Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light and The Empire District in Joplin.
"This is strong bipartisan legislation that will allow Missouri to update our 100-year-old regulations, invest in our power infrastructure and create thousands of good jobs," alliance spokesman Scott Charton said.
Sponsoring Sen. Mike Kehoe said consumer protections have been added and that he received input from lawmakers, utility regulators, electric companies and others. In addition, Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, is asking regulators to analyze how ratepayers would be affected by $700 million worth of eligible investments by each utility.