The most significant economic development bill debated in the General Assembly this year had the support of the governor, lieutenant governor, large majorities of legislators in both the House and Senate, small and large businesses, economic development organizations, labor organizations, farmers, various trade groups and countless individual Missourians.
The bill would have assured that Missouri had options for keeping electric rates low and meeting future demand for energy. And it would have led to the creation of thousands of good jobs at the same time.
But this bill — the nuclear site permit bill — never even came to a final vote in the legislature. Why? Because it would have threatened a special deal a few large corporations get on their electric rates.
In Missouri, large industrial corporations pay a rate for electricity that is about half the rate paid by families and small businesses. These corporations oppose any legislation that could level the rate structure and ever, in any way, interfere with their special deal. These corporations, led by two companies that aren’t even owned by Missourians and aided by a couple of powerful legislators, were able to block the nuclear site permit bill from coming to a vote even though a large majority of legislators clearly support the measure.
As a result, Missourians will likely now lose out on the many potential benefits the nuclear site permit bill would have brought to our state.
The coal plants Missouri relies on for 80 percent of our electricity are aging. They are expected to need costly upgrades to meet more stringent federal regulations, a move that would likely increase the price of electricity generated by coal. To date, Missouri has done very little to prepare for our changing energy demands.
Furthermore, Missouri’s demand for electricity is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next 20 years. We must start planning now if we are to be able to meet this growing demand and keep energy costs low. Nuclear power may very well be the best answer to these challenges. But without legislation that would make it possible for Missouri’s electricity providers to obtain a site permit, a new nuclear power plant cannot be constructed.
Equally regrettable, in their haste to protect their special deal, these big corporations blocked an opportunity that would have amounted to a huge economic gain for our state. The construction of a second plant in Callaway County would create 3,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic investment. The plant operations would employ 400 Missourians permanently. That’s not to mention the positive impact affordable energy rates have on a state’s ability to attract new businesses and jobs.
Other states are seizing the opportunities Missouri walked away from: Indiana’s legislature passed a bill that will allow the state to move closer to nuclear power plant construction. Iowa’s legislature is expected to pass legislation soon. Missouri’s General Assembly did not act on this important issue. In fact, the General Assembly did not take any action that would directly or indirectly create a single job in our state. That is why many legislators are now calling for a special session of the General Assembly to focus on job-creating issues, including the nuclear site permit bill.
We must continue to develop ways to diversify our energy portfolio. The longer we delay, the more opportunities we will miss and the more costly our energy will become. Passage of the nuclear site permit bill is a critical step toward gaining control of our economic future. Missouri needs to get this done.
Irl Scissors is executive director of Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future.