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Editorial: Ameren's rates

Monday, October 9, 2006

Since the Taum Sauk Reservoir collapse last December near Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, AmerenUE has spent more than $44 million for expenses related to the accident. The expenditures have covered property damage and business claims, cleanup and costs to the state.

The company expects to lay out another $19 million to $39 million in addition to a $15 million settlement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced last week, a $10 million fine and $5 million for community improvements.

When a retaining wall at the reservoir collapsed at about 5:20 a.m. Dec. 14, more than 1 billion gallons of water thundered through the park, sweeping away the superintendent's family. Thankfully no one was killed, but damage to the park was catastrophic.

Gov. Matt Blunt has said state civil penalties are possible, especially with regard to the loss of water quality on the East Fork of the Black River. Attorney General Jay Nixon is investigating the collapse.

The utility company has made an effort to correct the problems caused by the collapse. The concern is that Ameren will attempt to cover some of its losses through the rate increase it filed for in July. If approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission, the rate increase would provide Ameren with an additional $370 million in annual revenue.

Ameren says the request to raise rates, the first since 1987, is not connected to the reservoir collapse but rather due to the rising price of the coal that powers plants generating 80 percent of the electricity Ameren produces. Last year, Ameren's net income increased by 14 percent.

Ameren has taken responsibility for the damage the company has caused. The restitution the company makes should be at the expense of its profits, not ratepayers.


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