In the spring of 2009, we fought to stop AmerenUE from undoing the CWIP legislation–“we” being consumer protection groups, large manufacturing companies, lots of Dems and even a few Republican legislators. And, oh yes, Governor Nixon.
At the time, I wrote that Nixon: “is not opposed to more nuclear power, but he is opposed to ratepayers shelling out up front and then watching the shareholders take the resulting profits.” That’s what the fight was about, whether Ameren could undo a 1976 law that forbids it to make consumers pay upfront for the risky enterprise of building a nuclear plant.
Labor wanted the plant and the job of building it for the next ten years, and Nixon has apparently decided to help the unions out. But he intends to have his cake and eat it too. That is, he’d like to pretend he still supports CWIP, while pleasing the labor base by undermining CWIP. He’ll accomplish these contradictory goals by helping Ameren get $40 million of ratepayer money to assist the utility in paying for federal permit costs.
A year and a half ago, Nixon promised to veto any legislation that would undo the CWIP law. But now, now he says that a new plant would bring lots of jobs and, get this, he’s not helping undo the CWIP law, he’s just helping with the permitting process. Never mind that the permit does Ameren no good unless it can undo CWIP, because if we don’t pay upfront, Ameren can’t finance the humongous, technically tricky project. Yes, I know that Nixon says Ameren has “formed a coalition with other electrical cooperatives and utility companies that plan to invest in the nuclear plant.” That might make getting financing a little bit easier, but it won’t be enough. And yes, I know that Nixon says this $40 mill will only kick in if Ameren gets the permit and it will cost each ratepayer less than a couple of dollars a year. (But that’s just to get the forty million. Paying upfront for another plant will cost ratepayers at least as much, probably a bundle more, than investing in green solutions to our coal addiction.)
A comic strip called Frazz in the Saturday Post expressed my opinion of Nixon’s reasoning. Frazz, a determined young athlete, stands next to his bike, helmet on, with rain pelting him and says: “True, it’s not the best day. But it could be the last day for awhile that’s even this nice.” An eight year old boy who’s a friend of Frazz winces and says: “All that logic and so little sense.”