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The Missouri Senate pushes utility bill forward after marathon filibuster

The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to utility legislation Thursday night. The measure, which passed out of committee by a bipartisan 9-1 margin, was approved on the Senate floor in a voice vote and will require one more favorable vote before the House could consider it.

The measure alters the way the Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates the state’s largest utilities which are investor owned.

The key components would allow those power companies, including Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light and Empire District, to invest more than $1 billion in infrastructure upgrades while limiting their rate hikes to customers.

Among the key compromises that pushed the bill forward was a change in the cap on the customer rate increase allowed, on average, per year.  The cap would now be reduced from 3%-to-2.85%.

The bill also includes accounting provisions in which the utilities would track certain costs, such as depreciation on investment, that they can bring to the table during rate cases before the PSC.

Ameren Missouri Vice President Warren Wood issued a statement late Thursday night praising the upper chamber’s accomplishment.

“This bipartisan Senate approval reflects the balanced approach this rate cap bill takes towards upending the status quo,” said Wood.  “We look forward to ongoing discussions in the coming weeks to ensure that this important legislation becomes a reality for customers.”

Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri said,”We are grateful to all who achieved this compromise that should spur investment in improving the safety and reliability of Missouri’s electric infrastructure. Congratulations to the senators that fully engaged in the 30 hours of debate, including Senators Libla, Romine, Schaaf, and Emery. Their hard work produced a compromise on a very complicated issue and we look forward to vetting the details with our members,” said McCarty.

An important change to the utility bill came early on during the filibuster Wednesday night.  The amendment contained language that would ensure large sums of money the utilities will realize from a corporate tax cut passed by Congress will pass on to customers.

Ameren says the change in the bill speeds the process for those savings to reach consumers.  “This rate decrease will save our customers more than $100 million within 90 days of this bill becoming law” said Ameren Vice President Wood in a statement.

The final Senate vote on the utility legislation won’t come until next week as the entire legislature adjourned for the week on Thursday.

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