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As predicted, the Senate Commerce Committee passed the CWIP bill.

Two committee members offered amendments. The version offered by Senator John Griesheimer, R-Washington, would have simplified the bill from 24 pages to one page, but the bottom line was the same: it would have repealed the CWIP legislation the people passed by 63 percent in 1976. That was a no go. The version that was passed was written by Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who actually made a few substantive changes.

The new bill, written by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, gives the Public Service Commission more time to decide on whether or not to approve a new nuclear plant. The original bill allowed three months for the process – the new bill makes it 12 months for initial approval and another 11 months for the facility review process.

The new bill also requires the utility to obtain the necessary permits before applying for the facility review.

Big deal. On Monday, I wrote that:

The bill has been “fixed”. Sort of. Like a slovenly woman who has painted one fingernail to dress herself up.

This bill still has a runner in its stockings, a slip with torn lace peeking beneath the skirt, mismatched shoes, smeared lipstick, frizzy hair, and too much mascara. For instance:

– It would allow electric companies – not just AmerenUE, but every utility company that builds a new power plant – to get automatic rate increases every three months without having to hold hearings to justify the higher prices.

– Over the 10 years of construction for AmerenUE’s new nuclear plant, rates would increase between 29 percent and 40 percent, according to an estimate by the Missouri Public Counsel’s office, which represents utility customers before the Missouri Public Service Commission. That increase, coming during a recession and before the plant produces its first watt of electricity, could drive some businesses into bankruptcy and further depress the state economy.

And that’s just the ladder in the stockings and the slip. The P-D editorial paints the whole ugly picture and it’s worth a read.

In the 6-4 vote, two Republicans joined senators Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, and Jolie Justus, D-K.C., in voting against the bill: Senator Jim Lembke, St. Louis, and Senator Luann Ridgeway, Smithville. Tim Green, D-St. Louis, co-sponsored the bill, presumably to satisfy construction trade unions.

The committee vote is over now, but Griesheimer is unhappy on just about every count. He told Tony Messenger that “‘If this bill hits the Senate floor as it is now, it’s dead on arrival.'” Presumably, he thinks his version would have stood a better chance in the Senate than Schaefer’s. Why, I do not know. Furthermore, he and Lager are disgusted with the bill’s opponents for hitting the air with an ad during the last Mizzou game of the NCAA tournament. Griesheimer characterized the ad as having “lies and distortions”. Feel free to decide for yourself whether that’s so:

So we lost the committee vote (thanks, by the way, to Bray, Justus, Lembke, and Ridgeway), but the prospects don’t look good for passage in the full Senate. Even if it squeaks out of there, Nixon’s pen is poised. And if worse comes to worst, there’s always the possibility of another ballot initiative to stop Ameren and the other utilities from this power grab.

They may think they can arrange to deal themselves a regulatory royal flush, but we’re not playing poker with them. We’re playing bridge–and holding the high trump cards.