JEFFERSON CITY / March 8, 2018 – It just doesn’t make sense. The bill is known in the Capitol as “The Ameren Bill” because its been written by and lobbied for most heavily by Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest energy provider. But now proponents are inexplicably trying to dupe the public into refering to it as the “Rate Cut and Cap Act” despite the fact that it will no doubt raise rates for all consumers.
The Public Service Commission agrees – this legislation will raise rates significantly for consumers as described in their report. Even the bill’s own fiscal note includes scathing criticism, pointing out several provisions that will lead to potentially costly litigation. It also estimates that even with the supposed rate “cap”, the legislation would cost the state facilities alone over $400k annually in increased utility bills. Imagine what the rate impact would be for the average household consumer!
This misleading marketing campaign by electric utilities has consumer advocates horrified and asking a lot of questions.
Who is behind this shadowy “Cut and Cap” campaign? It does not disclose its funders to the public, but one thing is certain – the campaign is eerily consistent with Ameren, the monopoly that is going to extraordinary lengths to get this rate increase legislation passed this year. On any given day, up to 47 Ameren lobbyists who are registered with the state of Missouri are swarming the Capitol, making promises and echoing the same mantra: we must pass this bill. Direct campaign contributions to legislators from utility monopolies have mounted to over a million dollars in the state senate, and with similar utility donations flowing to many state representatives.
It also begs the question: how involved was Ameren and its many political allies in the Governor’s dark money “A New Missouri” organization, which had activities that just so happened to coincide with the Special Session called by the Governor last year on this very same legislation.
We will find out soon enough. Ameren’s own Political Contributions Policy states that the corporation will “annually post on its website lists of (i) political contributions made in support of, or in opposition to, political candidates, parties, committees (including those that sponsor ballot initiatives)3 and 527 groups” and 501(c)(4) contributions are disclosed alongside. Yet despite Ameren’s policy pledge to “make available and continuously maintain on its website an online archive of this information,” the information that is publicly posted has not been updated since 2016.
The question remains: who does this bill really benefit? Ameren lobbyists say it benefits “consumers”, but that contradicts the facts that it would result in massive electric rate increases for over 20 years. The general public, along with many legislators, are rightfully confused by the contradictory messaging.
Perhaps the most important question that should be asked is: Why would Ameren Missouri spend so much political money and go to such Herculean efforts to pass a bill that reins in their profits and favors their consumers?
That answer is simple: they wouldn’t. The Ameren bill is good for electric monopolies, but not very good for the small businesses and households that will be left holding the bag and paying for hundreds of millions extra for unnecessary rate increases.