This Week in the Missouri PSC: Sept. 19, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – All eyes were on one item in Tuesday’s PSC agenda meeting, waiting to see if the commission would change their minds and grant a rehearing in the case for Clean Line Energy’s proposed Grain Belt Express project.

It only took a matter of minutes for it to become clear that, as many expected, the PSC would not grant the company’s application, and that the motion served only one real purpose: to expend the options that the company could take in order to try and put their project back on track, allowing Clean Line to seek an appeal from the courts.

Following their decision, Mark Lawlor, Vice President, Development at Clean Line Energy, issued a statement:

“Today, Grain Belt Express Clean Line appealed the recent decision by the Missouri Public Service Commission denying approval of the transmission line despite the PSC’s determination that the project is in the public interest and will greatly benefit the State of Missouri. 

Clean Line is seeking clarification of the roles played by the PSC and county commissions as it relates to the state’s utility infrastructure. For decades the PSC held jurisdiction over determining if such projects are in the public interest and counties followed with their approval to safely cross county roads. This process has been upended and jeopardizes the future the state’s energy infrastructure. Clean Line believes this issue is too important to Missouri’s consumers, and energy future not have clarified. 

The Grain Belt Express would be the largest clean energy infrastructure project in Missouri’s history and would save Missouri ratepayers more than $10 million annually. If allowed to stand, the current ruling would not only rob ratepayers of this savings but will hamper the development of energy infrastructure projects in Missouri for the foreseeable future.”

With seven other orders on the docket, the commission wasted little time on any single given item, with little discussion, if any, from the commissioners.

The PSC signed off on Kansas City Power & Light’s annual fuel adjustment clause (FAC) true-up, approving the company’s tariff which comes with a rate adjustment addressing the under-collection of $195,397 from its customers. That tariff will take effect on October 1.

The commission also approved a prudence review for KCPL, saying staff found no instances of imprudent conduct, and that the only issue seems to be with the Office of Public Counsel, which has raised concerns about whether the company is relying on SPP to provide more energy than what is in the best interest of ratepayers. The commission agreed that should be looked into during the next IRP filing.

The PSC also approved the order regarding Ameren Missouri’s FAC tariff, signing off on a notice that they will allow the company’s filings to go into effect as law on September 25. Based on a monthly usage of 1,015 kWh, the proposed changes by Ameren would decrease the FAC on a residential customer’s bill by 26 cents per month.

The also approved a CCN for a transfer of water and sewer assets to 188 North Summit, which would allow them to provide water and sewer service to about 55 customers in a mobile home park. The PSC approved that order 5-0.

Chairman Daniel Hall did withdraw the sixth order of the day, which concerned a contract between Osage Water Company and Summit Investments dating back to 1999. The issue with the contract was the Osage had agreed to provide water and wastewater services to undeveloped lots owned by Summit in exchange for the transfer of certain water/wastewater assets. Osage Water never fulfilled its obligations, and Summit filed suit against the company. The PSC directed Summit to take it up in civil court, where the courts decided in favor of Summit in the amount of $1.04 million.

The order before the commission would have accepted the status report and closed the file, but Hall said he didn’t feel that it was appropriate to do so, as the court had not addressed the issue in a manner they had hoped, and there were still questions to be answered.

“It’s still unclear whether or not the company can expend the money to provide the service that we determined they needed to provide,” he said. “My understanding is that there may be a pending bankruptcy, and maybe all of this will get resolved in bankruptcy, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to close the file until we have some resolution of the issues.”

The PSC also approved a default determination order and ask general counsel to seek penalties against Highway H, Inc in the circuit court for failing to file an annual report after numerous requests.

The final order of the day approved Elm Hills Utility Operating Company, Inc.’s request for a CCN and transfer of water and sewer assets into areas serving parts of Warrensburg and Sedalia. In addition, Elm Hills sought approval from the Commission to issue up to $1,450,000 of secured indebtedness and was approved to borrow up to $1,250,000.

This story originally appeared on The Missouri Times.

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