A utility company built a power plant in Cass County without conforming to their zoning laws. A whole bunch of people sued. The court said, “Dismantle the power plant…”

On March 4th the Western Court of Appeals upheld the Circuit Court ruling to dismantle the plant:

In this appeal we again consider the consequences of Aquila’s decision to build a multi–million–dollar power plant in Cass County without obtaining either zoning approval from Cass County or prior permission of the Public Service Commission (“PSC”). In StopAquila.org v. Aquila, Inc., 180 S.W.3d 24 (Mo. App. W.D. 2005) (hereafter Aquila I), this court affirmed a circuit court injunction requiring Aquila to dismantle that power plant and an accompanying substation (collectively, “the facilities”). We there held that Aquila’s franchise and existing certificates of convenience and necessity (“CCNs”) did not confer the “specific authority” necessary for the facilities to qualify for a zoning exemption under section 64.235.(FN1) In the absence of such an exemption, Aquila I held that the circuit court correctly found that the facilities violated the zoning laws of Cass County. Id. at 27.

After that decision, Aquila sought belated construction approval from the PSC, presumably in the hope that such approval would relieve it of the injunction’s dismantling order. This appeal comes to us, therefore, from a report and order of the PSC purporting to grant CCNs approving construction and operation of the facilities.(FN2) We today hold that the PSC lacks statutory authority to grant a post hoc CCN approving construction and that Aquila already had all the authority necessary to operate a power plant (under its pre–existing CCN), rendering the instant report and order a nullity….

[emphasis added]

Uh, that means that the the Public Service Commission can’t give a utility permission to build a power plant after the utility has built the power plant.

What would the Missouri General Assembly do? Of course! Somebody introduced a bill (tiny URL):  

SECOND REGULAR SESSION

HOUSE BILL NO. 2468

94TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY

INTRODUCED BY REPRESENTATIVES SCHOELLER (Sponsor), EMERY, VIEBROCK, BIVINS, GEORGE, LEMBKE, LAMPE, SKAGGS, SMITH (14), WALSH AND ZIMMERMAN (Co-sponsors).

Read 1st time March 26, 2008 and copies ordered printed.

D. ADAM CRUMBLISS, Chief Clerk

5563L.01I

AN ACT

To repeal section 393.170, RSMo, and to enact in lieu thereof one new section relating to the authority of the public service commission.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, as follows:

Section A. Section 393.170, RSMo, is repealed and one new section enacted in lieu thereof, to be known as section 393.170, to read as follows:

393.170. 1. No gas corporation, electrical corporation, water corporation or sewer corporation shall begin construction of a gas plant, electric plant, water system or sewer system without first having obtained the permission and approval of the commission.

2. No such corporation shall exercise any right or privilege under any franchise hereafter granted, or under any franchise heretofore granted but not heretofore actually exercised, or the exercise of which shall have been suspended for more than one year, without first having obtained the permission and approval of the commission. Before such certificate shall be issued a certified copy of the charter of such corporation shall be filed in the office of the commission, together with a verified statement of the president and secretary of the corporation, showing that it has received the required consent of the proper municipal authorities.

3. The commission shall have the power to grant the permission and approval herein specified whenever it shall after due hearing determine that such construction or such exercise of the right, privilege or franchise is necessary or convenient for the public service. The commission may by its order impose such condition or conditions as it may deem reasonable and necessary. Unless exercised within a period of two years from the grant thereof, authority conferred by such certificate of convenience and necessity issued by the commission shall be null and void.

4. The commission shall have the authority to grant the permission and approval specified in this section after the construction or acquisition of any gas plant, electric plant, water system, or sewer system has begun or has been completed if the commission determines that the grant of such permission and approval is necessary or convenient for the public service. Any such permission and approval shall, for all purposes, have the same effect as the permission and approval granted prior to such construction or acquisition.

[emphasis added]

Why, that looks like somebody wants to give the Public Service Commission the authority to retroactively grant permission to a utility to build a power plant after they’ve already built the power plant. I’m starting to see how it all works.

Why would somebody introduce a bill like that for a utility? I wonder…

Detailed Summary of Contributions And Loans Received

Committee: FRIENDS OF SHANE SCHOELLER

Report Date: 1/15/2008

Aquila Inc Employee Federal PAC KC MO 64105 11/27/2007 $325.00

KCP & L Power Pac-MO KC MO 64141 10/16/2007 $325.00

MO Energy Development Assn PAC Jefferson City MO 65101 10/26/2007 $325.00

MO Assn of Municipal Utilities Columbia MO 65203 10/19/2007 $325.00

The Empire District Electric Co Joplin MO 64802 10/25/2007 $325.00

Why would anybody co-sponsor such a bill? I wonder…

Detailed Summary of Contributions And Loans Received

Committee: CITIZENS FOR ED EMERY

Report Date: 1/11/2008

Missouri Public Utility Alliance Columbia, MO 65203 10/13/2007 $325.00

Aquilla Inc. Employee PAC Kansas City, MO 64105 12/19/2007 $325.00

Empire District Electric PAC Joplin, MO 64802 11/09/2007 $325.00

Hmm. The Committee to Elect Jim Viebrock Representative filed a report on 6-30-06 [pdf]. Yep, there’s utility contributions in there, too.

I suppose I could go on and on. But, you probably get the picture.

As somebody in the General Assembly recently stated, “…The legislature is largely controlled by the business community…”

I find this all very interesting.