Republican senators divided on Missouri energy bill

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | 9:12 p.m. CDT; updated 9:07 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 8, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY – Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, alleged on the floor of the Missouri Senate on Tuesday that Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is behind calls to Columbia constituents telling them that their rates would increase if an AmerenUE-backed bill is passed.

The substitute bill, by Schaefer, would allow AmerenUE to increase its rates to pay for the financing costs of building a second nuclear power plant before it becomes operational.

AmerenUE officials have warned that without the rate regulation change, it would be financially unable to construct a second nuclear plant in Callaway County.

Schaefer said Tuesday that he received information from his constituents who said when they received an automated call concerning the bill, it was traced back to a "Crowell for Senate" campaign office. Schaefer acknowledged, however, that he did not call the number himself.

Crowell, in turn, denied the accusations and responded that AmerenUE is behind the information Schaefer is receiving.

He also said that the senators involved in drafting the bill are not electricity consumers of AmerenUE.

"Everyone but AmerenUE will pay for this power plant," Crowell said. He told Schaefer, "Put your money where your mouth is, senator."

Neither the bill's original sponsor — Sen Delbert Scott, R-Lowery City — nor Schaefer are served by AmerenUE.

While Crowell denied an accusation by Schaefer to be in the pocket of AmerenUE's largest consumer, Noranda Aluminum, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, who represents the district in which Noranda is located, offered 23 amendments to the bill.

"If this bill passes (as is), Noranda will shut down," Mayer said.

One of the amendments, which failed, would have exempted aluminum smelters like Noranda from these rate increases.

Another amendment, which was adopted, would exclude both individuals older than 65 and those disabled who make less than $40,000 in combined household income from being affected by the rate increases.

"As many people we can get out of the bill as possible, the better," said Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, in favor of the amendment.

The bill was also amended to require $100 million in financing for the plant to come from banks located in Missouri.


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