LETTER: Ameren Ratepayers shouldn't have to assume risk

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | 11:51 a.m. CST

If Wall Street won’t touch financing a new nuclear power plant, why should we be saddled with it? Why should stockholders of AmerenUE be sheltered, and 10 percent profits get protection, while all the risk gets shifted onto us, the utility customers, who will reap no benefit in the end? Why should we be paying now for energy that won’t even be delivered for 10 to 12 or more years from now? Many elderly will not even be around by the time it goes online, but will have been unfairly “taxed” in the meantime by the increased utility bills.  It also goes without saying that this will impact the poor and elderly in a regressive way, since basic living costs of heat and electricity make up a greater proportion of their fixed incomes.

What are the risks we are being asked to absorb?  Only half of the nuclear power plants that got construction permits in the 1970s and '80s were ever completed.  Who ate the cost of the unsuccessful projects? If CWIP (Construction Work in Progress) provisions were applicable, the cost was paid by the rate payers. If Ameren makes a final decision to proceed with building this new nuclear reactor, and for some reason the plant was canceled when it was, say 60 percent completed, CWIP would mean the rate payers would foot the entire bill, with nothing to show for it. The Ameren stockholders are completely safe from any of this risk.

With this CWIP proposal being floated in Jefferson City, there is not even a cap on potential cost overruns, for which new nuclear plants are infamous.  Instead of giving them a check for a specified amount, it’s more like we are being asked to give them a line of credit with no ceiling! Who would ever willingly agree to such a financial contract?

CWIP will hurt the Missouri economy. Industries that are energy intensive will have a strong disincentive to move to Missouri with CWIP in place. Why would a company willingly agree to pay more than the going rate for their power for a decade or more, when the next state over doesn’t have this crippling provision?

The welfare of the people is the highest law, so it says on the seal of the state of Missouri.  Our legislators must remember that and respect the will of the people and the wise decision made over 30 years ago. Please protect and let stand the current prohibition against CWIP.


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