©2016 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Jeffrey Tomich

Bills for Missouri electric consumers are broken down into a few basic components: a base charge for generating and delivering electricity, a fuel adjustment charge to reflect changes in fuel and purchased power costs, and municipal taxes.

If a state senator gets his way, the bills issued next year would include another line item: a monthly Clean Power Plan charge.

The bill, S. 687, is one of several measures filed over the past two legislative sessions by a critic of U.S. EPA’s carbon rule: Republican state Sen. Gary Romine, who is a member of the state Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee.

The one-page bill would require electric utilities to track expenses related to the Clean Power Plan and itemize them on customer bills beginning Jan. 1.

Last year, Romine sponsored S.B. 142, a measure signed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) last summer that requires the state environmental regulators to submit Missouri’s compliance plan for legislative review before submitting it to EPA (EnergyWire, Sept. 24, 2015).

The state senator, whose district is a mostly rural area southwest of St. Louis, didn’t return a call seeking comment on the bills.

The state’s two largest utilities, Ameren Missouri and Kansas City Power & Light Co., have raised concerns about how the Clean Power Plan will affect electric rates and bills.

While neither utility has taken a position on the Romine proposal to itemize compliance costs on consumer bills, KCP&L spokesman Chuck Caisley said in a statement that “transparency regarding the impact of the new rule is a good thing.”

How would CPP costs be separated?

Environmental groups, however, say the measure is not about promoting transparency.

“I think the intent of the bill is to generate opposition to the Clean Power Plan,” said John Hickey, the Sierra Club’s Missouri Chapter director.

Hickey questioned why Clean Power Plan-related costs would be highlighted in a separate line item on utility bills when other costs, such as executive salaries and bonuses or the cost of transporting coal to Missouri from the Powder River Basin, are not.

Katharine McCormick, a policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the bill is meant to emphasize compliance costs while ignoring the benefits of reducing pollution and triggering clean energy development.

Also, the bill doesn’t specifically define how costs would be calculated. “Determining what costs could be attributed to the Clean Power Plan would be a tricky business, because a lot of this transition to clean energy is happening for purely economic reasons,” she said.

Two other Romine bills filed this session would direct the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to submit a preliminary state compliance plan to EPA by the end of June and to seek a two-year extension.

The department has publicly stated that, despite a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Chris Koster (D), it would meet EPA’s Sept. 6 deadline for preliminary compliance plans. The agency has also said it would seek a two-year extension as allowed.

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