C180544 11/14/2018 Missourians for Responsible Energy Ameren Missouri PO Box 66892 St Louis MO 63166 11/13/2018 $5,484.25
180544: Missourians For Responsible Energy
Committee Type: Political Action
312 E. Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City Mo 65101
Established Date: 07/18/2018
Information Reported On: 2018 – October Quarterly Report
Beginning Money on Hand $0.00
Monetary Receipts + $0.00
Monetary Expenditures – $0.00
Contributions Made – $0.00
Other Disbursements – $0.00
Ending Money On Hand $0.00
Information Reported On: 2018 – October Quarterly Report
Beginning Indebtedness $0.00
Loans Received + $0.00
Expenditures Incurred (Credit Card, etc) + $10,968.50
Payments made on Loans and Credit Cards – $0.00
Debt Forgiven – $0.00
Payments made on Previously Incurred Debt – $0.00
Ending Indebtedness $10,968.50
That’s not a particularly good start or balance sheet.
Roy Blunt, who’s known for doing a good deed now and then for his fossil fuel benefactors, wants us to believe that he’s turned over a new leaf. Since President Obama announced his new clean air regulations for coal-fired plants, the Senator seems to have got himself all worked up about the hardships that these regulations will cause Missouri’s poor working folks:
If Blunt is so worried about how rate increases will affect low-income folks, where was he when Ameren raised electrical rates six times between 2006 and 2014? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in 2014 that:
Rates will have risen more than 50 percent since 2006 if the PSC grants the latest request in full. In recent years, the regulator has approved Ameren’s rate increase requests, but a lower amount than originally proposed by the utility.
A full 50%! Seems like that imposition on hard up Missourians might have reduced Blunt to outright sobbing. But I don’t remember that he had much to say about these rate increases.
And did you notice? Not one word about Ameren’s very generous donations to his campaign war chest:
Ameren is a top contributor to Blunt’s campaigns. People associated with the company have contributed more than $100,000 to Blunt, according the Center for Responsive Politics, good for 8th on the list of Blunt donors.
There’s more. Guess what really hurts poor Missourians? Pollution from coal-fired plants which disproportionately affects low-income people. And sorry, Senator Blunt, it’s not at all a sure bet that energy prices will rise, given the flexibility built into the new regulations. Some folks think we might see just the opposite result:
The rules give states a wide menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shutting down coal plants, states may be able to develop plans that make plants more efficient so they burn less coal. In addition, natural gas – which is cleaner than coal – renewable energy and energy efficiency will play major roles in the state plans.
The Natural Resources Defense Council said consumers will actually see electric prices decline as energy efficiency reduces the amount of electricity used.
Of course, we’ll have to get ol’ Roy out of the way first since he claims that when it comes to the new regulations he’ll “fight the president and his administration every step of the way,” doubtless financing the fight with big checks from Ameren.
*First sentence after video changed, first thirteen words added.
Read this in the the St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday:
Ameren Corp. boosted earnings by 57 percent in the second quarter, in part because of higher refueling costs last year at its nuclear power plant in Callaway County and warmer weather this spring.
Not surprising. According to an editorial in the same paper, we now now know that Ameren has been hiding the full extent of its profits as one of its large corporate clients, Noranda Aluminum, has charged in a dispute over the rates the utility has been charging:
The dispute over whether Ameren has earned more than the 9.8 percent profit established by the PSC [i.e., Public Service Commission] makes that painfully clear.
The PSC sets that target return on investment whenever a utility seeks a rate hike, by balancing the company’s need for growth and profit with consumers’ need for affordable, consistent rates for electricity. Because Ameren is a monopoly, the PSC’s role is to provide the pressures that might otherwise be provided in a competitive environment. To keep Ameren honest, the company is required to file “surveillance reports” to show whether it is earning more than is allowed.
But the PSC has determined those reports are confidential. So, for several months, a select number of attorneys and others involved in the previous rate case have known what the reports show: That Ameren has over-earned by tens of millions of dollars over the past year.
Late last month, just before the PSC’s hearing on Ameren’s over-earning was to begin, a judge finally opened up the reports. From July 2012 to March 2014, they show a consistent pattern of Ameren earning above its regulated rate of return. It can be argued that money rightfully belongs to Ameren’s consumers, not its shareholders. The over-earning, depending on who is doing the counting, is currently somewhere between about $25 million and $60 million a year.
The editorialist has a point. Given its monopoly status, there ought to be some way to insure that Ameren shows its customers at least as much regard as its shareholders. Instead Ameren has played poormouth and requested rate increases regularly – successfully most of the time, increasing its rates as the Post-Dispatch notes, “more than 40 percent in the past six years.” But the biggest issue I see with Ameren isn’t the question of consumer rates which are still relatively low. In the same article from which the first quote above was taken, I also read that:
CEO Warner Baxter reiterated the company’s concerns with the proposed federal rules regulating carbon dioxide, especially the interim goals that begin in 2020. The proposed rules, which would mainly affect the company’s generating plants in Missouri, “are unworkable from a customer standpoint,” he said.
Even with the proposals, Baxter said, the company isn’t planning to change its long-term resource plans, and it plans to continue using its power plants through the end of their useful life.
“We are not contemplating accelerating the retirement of our coal-fired units as part of our integrated resource plan because we think that’s in the long-term interest of our customers and the state of Missouri,” Baxter said in the call.
Let me recap all that I’ve learned from just one issue of the Post-Dispatch:
— Ameren is swimming in big profits.
— Aneren is attempting to hide this happy circumstance from the public it ostensibly serves in order to gouge yet more profit from its customers.
— Ameren is also relying on old, dirty technology that contributes to climate degradation and is a threat to public health.
— Ameren claims it can’t afford to implement an orderly transition to cleaner energy production without raising rates excessively to do so.
Essentially, this very profitable enterprise claims it can’t handle the cost of doing business in a responsible way without gouging its clients – the same folks it’s been regularly hitting up with rate increases while earning excessive profits. Does any of this inspire trust?
Do you think that this situation has anything to do with the “private” part of that private-public hybrid status that Ameren enjoys? Private entities are, of course, concerned only with the most efficient way to maximize profit, not service. And in the case of Ameren, the private segment of the enterprise seems to have corrupted the public part. On the topic of the failure of the PSC to keep Ameren’s welfare and the public welfare it supposedly represents in equilibrium, the Post-Dispatch editorialist notes that the legislature has little incentive to beef up public oversight given that “Ameren also employs lots of lobbyists and makes lots of campaign donations.” And indeed, a KSHB TV report observed that “Ameren lobbyists give lawmakers the most gifts total of any corporation tracked.”
Does anyone but me think that maybe the issue isn’t confined to the question of whether or not electric rates are fair, but whether our private-public utility is doing what is best for Missouri’s energy future, not to mention the health and welfare of Misourians. Ameren is certainly doing its best to live up to the “private” part of their mission by rigorously fighting for the shareholder’s bottom line, but isn’t it time for the “public” aspect of this supposedly regulated monopoly to manifest itself?
Today, Sarah Jo posted a short, heartfelt diary asking anyone, everyone to do what they can to get their Senators to vote against U.S. Senate Bill 1751. This bill would weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic coal ash generated as waste by coal-burning electric power plants.
This bill hits close to home for some Missourians in Franklin County. Last week Sarah Jo wrote about the final defeat of the long struggle to keep Ameren from building a coal ash landfill next to its Labadie power plant, which is smack dab in the midst of a floodplain. Declaring that she didn’t “know whether to scream or cry,” she pointed out once again, the absurdity of situating a toxic dump at this site which, she noted, was surrounded by water as recently as the 1993 flood.
Yesterday, as if to underline the nature of the risk we’re running just so power companies like Ameren can satisfy their shareholders, tons of coal ash, used in Michigan to fill in a ravine in the 1950s, slid into Lake Michigan when a bluff overlooking the lake collapsed. Coal ash, in case you’ve forgotten, is chock full of of cancer-causing goodies such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
But there’s no need for Michiganders – and by extension Missourians faced with a coal ash landfill in a floodplain – to worry. We Energies, the company that is responsible for the unregulated “reuse” of coal ash – sparing the state the expense and trouble of finding landfill space for the noxious stuff – has flatly stated that “coal ash is not hazardous material. It is unlikely there will be any health impacts at all from this event.”
Whew! If I hadn’t read that reassuring statement, I might have been worried by those EPA scientists who tell us that, “without proper protections, these contaminants can leach into groundwater and can migrate to drinking water sources, posing significant health public concerns.” Or, even worse, I might have taken seriously those scare-mongering environmentalists in the Sierra Club, who responded to the Michigan disaster by claiming*:
The EPA has been trying to enact national protections to stop this kind of disastrous spill from happening again, ever since the TVA disaster in 2008, and our Congress has been blocking them every step of the way,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “As a result, communities across the nation remain at risk and unprotected. This spill in the Great Lakes is a tragic reminder of why the status quo is not good enough. As long as Congress interferes, spills like this are going to happen, and dozens of communities are at risk. Congress needs to back off and allow the EPA to finalize strong protections.”
Sheesh! Who’s going to believe scientists and environmentalists when we’ve got a bottom-line businessman telling us we’ve got nothing to worry about.
I just came from a meeting of the Franklin County Commission where the three commissioners voted to change county regs to allow a coal ash landfill in the Missouri River floodplain. I don’t know whether to scream or cry.
Shame on these three bumbling, ignorant jackasses. From the start of this charade two years ago, the public was told not to mention Ameren or the Labadie Bottoms in their public comments because “we’re just talking about changing the regulations, not a specific case.” Of course, the only reason they were discussing the changes was because Ameren wants to build a 400 acre coal ash dump next to their 40 yr old plant in Labadie. Go to http://www.leomo.info to see a photo of the smokestacks in the distance surrounded by lush, beautiful floodplain vegetation and animal habitat. During the 1993 flood, the plant was surrounded by water.
I was so impressed with the testimony and comments by members of the public this morning. Intelligent, powerful, inspiring short speeches that made it even more incredible that these three brainless, heartless jerks could vote AYE.
I said to them as I left, “This will come back to haunt you. Shame on you. You cannot destroy God’s beautiful creation without it coming back to haunt you.”
The fight is not over, but one thing for sure. Those three will never be elected to anything ever again. Of course John Griesheimer doesn’t care because he’s probably got a job already lined up with Ameren. What goes around comes around. And I’ll be happy to see the three of them reap what they have sown.
We’ve all heard the right-wing story about how regulation cripples industry and if we leave it to the “free-market,” its invisible hand will point us to just the right degree of industrial self-regulation to allow a happy-ever after ending. These claims about a beneficent market-place came to my mind as I read a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about how two Ameren waste ponds near the Labadie plant, filled with toxic coal ash, have been leaking into the surrounding area, potentially contaminating ground water.
There is, of course, no objective evidence that such contamination is occurring – which, as the Post-Dispatch article points out, is not surprising since “neither the state nor the company has ever tested the area for contamination.” Surprised by that? It gets better:
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the agency charged with regulating coal ash ponds and enforcing the Clean Water Act in the state, isn’t required to monitor groundwater at the site under current state laws. But it has legal authority to do so under the plant’s water permit and hasn’t – despite learning of the leaks from Ameren 19 years ago, according to utility filings with the DNR.
What’s more, the water discharge permit for the state’s largest coal-fired power plant, a hulking 2,300-megawatt facility, expired 12 years ago. Ameren applied for a permit renewal in 1998, but the department has yet to finish its review. Yet under state law, the plant can legally continue operating under the existing 1994 permit.
Wonder why whenever I hear about how much better states do local regulation, the word “cronyism” pops into my mind? I’m not making any accusations, you understand, just asking. Perhaps the Post-Dispatch puts it better when it quotes those who simply blame “lax state regulations or poor enforcement.” They probably should have added foot-dragging, maybe even purposeful foot-dragging. They did point out the solution:
The loose regulatory environment underscores the need for federal rules that give states less leeway to ignore potential problems, advocates argue.
Could anything be more emblematic of the way the business model fails the public good than Ameren’s environmental failures? Or the way that it corrupts local government efforts to do so? Or why privatizing public services doesn’t necessarily work for the public good? Perhaps if Ameren didn’t have to worry about preserving its profit margin, it might be able to operate in a more responsible way.
Yet right now we’ve got at least one would-be GOP presidential contender, Mitt Romney, gassing on about how he’d be a better choice than his main rival because he’s been a businessman rather than a public servant. Romney, who capitalized on the destructive merger mania of the 1980s and 90s to build a fortune, claims our present economic predicament shows that we need a successful businessman – just like those whose greed caused the great recession of 2008 – to get us out of the predicament they created. Here at home, Ameren, while refusing to test ground water around the Labadie plant, claims that there’s no problem at all – just give them a permit and let them continue to do what they’ve been doing all along and it’ll all be okey-dokey.
Did I forget to tell you black is white and white is now officially black? But it’s OK – the right folks are going to continue getting richer and richer.
* First sentence of third paragraph from bottom edited for clarity.
The first thing you need to know to understand Ameren’s attempt to get funding for the license application for another nuclear plant is this: in the last few years, the PSC has consistently granted rate hikes that allow Ameren to make in the 10-11 percent profit range. Yeah, yeah, I know: in this economony? to a monopoly that takes essentially no risks? But, setting aside our furious insistence that such profits are unreasonable, just know that those are the kinds of profits Ameren gets to make. SO–and this is the important part–the more money Ameren has to spend, the more profits it will make.
Couple that knowledge with the fact that, because of the disaster at Fukushima (which is now rated as bad a disaster as Chernobyl), the feds will be issuing additional safety regulations for new nuclear plants, regs that will unquestionably raise the already excessive cost of building such plants. But if building another nuclear plant thus went from, say, $3 billion to, maybe, $6 billion, that’s no skin off Ameren’s nose. Quite the opposite. It’s twice as much profit. I mean, wouldn’t you rather have ten percent of $6 billion than ten percent of a piddling $3 billion?
And if there are cost overruns that make the eventual price tag, say, $9 billion, is that more profit still? Now that’s a tricky question to answer. As things stand now, it would depend on whether the investigation after the new plant was finished–any new plant, whether nuclear or coal–whether the investigation showed that the additional costs were “prudent and reasonable.” After Callaway was finished in the eighties, the investigators disallowed $400 million. That was an expense that Union Electric had to eat.
And Ameren doesn’t ever want that to happen again. That’s why the corporation is working so hard to get $40 million out of the legislature for the license application. It’s not that Ameren can’t afford to pay for the application itself. Of course it can. The point is that if the lege gives the utility company advance funds on a plant, then the company will have effectively set a precedent that could prove the undoing of the anti-CWIP law Missourians passed in the seventies–the law that forbids giving a utility funds for a new plant until the plant is operating.
If Ameren can finagle a way around that law, then it gets ten percent of $9 billion if that’s what any new plant ends up costing. It’s not exactly an incentive to spend funds judiciously. More like … the opposite. And don’t kid yourself that we could investigate the funds that Ameren already got from us and make the company repay us for unwise expenditures. Right. If pigs fly and raindrops turn to Schlafly’s Pale Ale.
This money trail leads us to another conclusion as well, which is that Ameren doesn’t want to provide our electricity needs by helping us become more energy efficient. The company’s own internal studies show that such efficiencies would be the cheapest way to provide energy–not to mention being the kindest for the environment (and thus the kindest to our future as humans on this planet). We don’t need another nuclear plant, especially one located anywhere near the New Madrid faultline. Instead, we need to make Missouri homes and businesses more energy efficient. That would solve our energy problems for the foreseeable future.
The very fact that Ameren knows energy efficiency would solve the problem makes even considering any new nuclear plant, on its face, “imprudent and unreasonable.” The company does not deserve to have the possibility even considered. The problem is that energy efficiency is so … yecch, cheap. Instead of spending for a pricey new plant and all the lovely profits attendant upon that, Ameren would have to spend less and make lower profits than it already does. That would be so annoying to Ameren investors. In fact, the utility believes that if users instituted energy efficiency measures that lowered its profit level, it ought to be compensated for lost revenue.
The good of the public and the future of the planet be damned.
As I write this, the Senate is scheduled to take up the license renewal today or tomorrow. I made a call to my senator, Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Her legislative aide said she did not know how the senator plans to vote. Good on Maria if she votes against Ameren. Shame on her if she votes in its favor.
I couldn’t tell you for sure where the other senators stand, although I would guess that Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), who has the state’s largest electricity user, Noranda Aluminum, in his district, will probably vote in Noranda’s favor and against Ameren. The course of action ought to be clear for any informed state senator with the good of consumers in this part of Missouri at heart. But Ameren is not sitting idly by, waiting for that to happen. The company hosted a suite at the Tuesday night Lil Wayne concert and invited legislators. I’d hate to think concert tickets might determine whether we get another nuclear plant or not.
Here is a pair of political strange bedfellows: ex-Senator Joan Bray (D-St. Louis) and Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau). Bray doesn’t find it all that strange, really, that she and Crowell are on the opposite side of the fence from Gov. Nixon, opposing the governor’s bill to give Ameren $40 million to apply for a license for another nuclear plant. She says she and Crowell have always gotten along well, but they usually disagreed on issues. It’s nice to find something they can work on together.
Their common interest in this case is ratepayers. Noranda Aluminum, the state’s largest industrial user of power, is in Sen. Crowell’s district; and Noranda, along with Anheuser-Busch InBev, is upset that the proposed $40 million giveaway did not contain promised funds for the Office of Public Counsel. That is where the interests of the two senators converge. Bray, too, thinks the Office of Public Counsel is ridiculously underfunded. Bray’s group, the Consumers Council, is a coalition of large industrial users (like Noranda and InBev), the AARP, and the MO Assn. of Social Welfare, all working with the Office of Public Counsel to defend rate payers against the rate hikes that the PSC so liberally hands out whenever Ameren comes begging. The Office of Public Counsel, in its attempts at sweet reason in the PSC hearings, is typically outgunned ten to one. Ameren uses the money we ratepayers are forced to fork over to finance lotsa lawyers, who then convince the PSC to wring even more money out of us. For Ameren customers, it’s like being forced to pay for the bullets of our own firing squad.
As head of the Consumers Council, Bray opposes, no question about it, giving Ameren forty million dollars to apply for the license. The Council’s first objection is that state law forbids giving utilities any funds for new plants until they actually come on line. Just as much of a sticking point is that we’re talking about a new nuclear plant, and that especially riles many green activists.
But Bray pointed out to me that as heartily as she opposes another nuclear plant in Callaway County, she must, as head of the Consumers Council, be aware of political realities. And the reality is that Ameren is almost surely going to get that forty mill. That being the case, the advocates for ratepayers had best get something valuable out of the deal if they can, and that’s what they’re aiming to do. To that end, when the bill came up for a hearing in Crowell’s committee, he stipulated that the OPC would get its funds from Ameren rather than from the state and that it would get appreciably more funding. That stipulation had been promised and then–oops–left out. If Crowell and the Consumers Council can stall the deal unless the Office of Public Counsel gets more funding, then at least the OPC can use its new funds to lobby against changing the anti-CWIP law–against, in other words, forcing ratepayers to cough up in advance for a second nuclear plant in Callaway County.
Hey, as long as we have to pay for the bullets that will be fired at us, shouldn’t we also be allowed to buy some ammo for our own defense? That’s only fair, especially since we’ll still be outgunned. Consider that the OPC, if it gets its funding from a dedicated stream taken out of Ameren’s profits, wouldn’t have the kind of moolah that the utility’s CEO can spend on lawyers and lobbyists. OPC would get somewhere between $3 and $4 million dollars. Ameren spent $4 million on its last rate case alone, whereas the OPC would have to use its funds for utility cases around the entire state. But the odds would be more even.
And just as important, the Office of Public Counsel would be protected from political vagaries. In these dire times for the state budget, when agencies and programs are being slashed on every side, who knows what might happen to the OPC’s funding? Instead of having one tenth the resources to argue a case that Ameren has, it might end up having 1/20th of the resources. Or none. It could be entirely defunded. We do have a Republican legislature.
The important ball to keep your eye on when it comes to this bill, then, is whether or not, if it passes, it includes a dedicated funding stream taken from Ameren to give the Office of Public Counsel some parity in litigating rate cases. If that happens, it will be because all the stakeholders on our side pooled their might. Big Bill Haywood, that famous turn of the 20th century labor leader, used to show immigrants who were trying to form unions an open hand and demonstrate how easily any single finger can be bent. But then he would make a fist to illustrate the strength that comes from unity. Perhaps the Consumers Council is about to experience itself as a fist.
As for whether giving Ameren $40 million it neither needs nor deserves could ever be considered winning? Eh, that’s a tough case to make. But getting four million dollars a year out of Ameren’s profits for the Office of Public Counsel would certainly take much of the sting out of that kind of “winning”.
SarahJo and I have been squawking about AmerenUE’s bid to put a 400 acre coal ash landfill on the Missouri River floodplain, just a few miles upstream from the water processing plant for all of North St. Louis County. If it were allowed, it would be travesty on top of mortal sin. And make no mistake about it, Ameren is already guilty of mortal sin, because its Labadie plant, one of the largest coal fired plants in the country, ranks fourth in mercury emissions and eleventh in carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, the company is sort of not mentioning to people in the metro St. Louis region that they face increased risk of heart attacks, respiratory problems and premature death because they’re breathing air full of toxic particulate matter. I guess the utility figures there’s no percentage in advertising something like voluntary manslaughter. Or is it reckless endangerment? Whatever. I call it a mortal sin.
Ameren could and should meet EPA standards, but it has been in violation of them ever since the Clean Air Act became law, and it has no intention of cleaning up its act. So the Washington University interdisciplinary environmental law clinic, on behalf of the Sierra Club, requested a public hearing on Ameren’s permit renewal. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct that hearing this Thursday evening.
I’ve marveled for years that people quake at the possibility of a terrorist attack and calmly acquiesce to breathing poisoned air. Don’t do it. It’s time to fill that hall and raise a stink.
The time is 7:00, Thursday, Oct. 21st. The place is Labadie Elementary School, 2749 Highway T, Labadie, MO, 63055.