State rejects requests from AmerenUE, Noranda to reconsider rate case

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Missouri Public Service Commission on Thursday turned down several requests to take another look at its recent order allowing AmerenUE to increase electric rates.

On a unanimous 5-0 vote, the commission rejected Ameren's request to rewrite a portion of the rate case related to the division of profits from unregulated wholesale power sales. The utility company wanted to change the rules because it will have up to 3.2 million Megawatts of power to dispose because the late January ice storm halted most production at Noranda Aluminum in New Madrid.

In split votes of 3-2, the commission also declined requests from Noranda, AARP and the Office of Public Counsel to reconsider the rate increase.

On Jan. 27, the commission granted an 8.1 percent increase in electric rates to AmerenUE. The order will cost ratepayers about $162 million, with the average home user spending about $70 more each year for electricity. The rate hike will take effect March 1.

Noranda, the company's biggest customer, had sought to block the rate increase because of the economic impact on the aluminum maker, which has laid off more than 200 workers at the New Madrid plant since late last year.

The Office of Public Counsel, the taxpayer-funded consumer advocate on utility cases, had argued for a smaller rate increase.

The commission's actions end its involvement in the case. But public counsel Lewis Mills said he expects to file a request for a court review.

"I am not surprised the commission voted the way they did," Mills said. "The administrative process is done and it clears our way to appeal it to the courts."

Neither AmerenUE nor Noranda immediately returned calls seeking comment.

For more information, check back at semissourian.com or read Friday's Southeast Missourian.

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