Kehoe still pursuing nuclear plant proposal

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, who represents Callaway County in the Missouri Senate, said Tuesday the nuclear power incident in Japan hasn’t stopped his efforts to secure passage of legislation leading to a second nuclear reactor at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant.

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Sen. Mike Kehoe

“The tragedy of historic proportions that is unfolding in Japan cannot be discounted or overlooked, but at the end of the day after we work through what we can do to help Japan, Missouri’s energy needs will be the same as our situation today. The timing is not the best, but at the end of the day I think people will still want to have a conversation about our legislation,” Kehoe said.

“I don’t think the chances of getting a bill through are diminished. I thought from the beginning it was going to be a tough struggle getting the bill approved all along,” Kehoe said.

“I think we have to continue to present the facts. I think the utility partnership will do a great job of explaining the safety precautions at the current Callaway Nuclear Power Plant and the safety precautions that will be implemented if a second plant should be built. At the end of the day, people will have to be satisfied with that. I have been through some of those conversations and I am satisfied and I think the people of Missouri will be as well,” Kehoe said.

Kehoe said he hopes nuclear plant legislation will be approved by a Senate Committee soon so the issue can go forward. Kehoe said he has been promised that a bill for a second nuclear reactor will be approved by the committee but he isn’t sure whether it will be his bill or another bill offered by Senate leaders.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is chairman of the committee holding Kehoe’s bill. On March 1 Crowell and Senate Leader Robert N. Mayer, R-Dexter, jointly introduced another bill permitting a private utility to recover up to $40 million for obtaining an early site nuclear permit and a rebate to consumers if a nuclear plant is not built. It also requires utilities to fund the Office of Public Counsel in the Missouri Public Service Commission, the panel that represents consumers in rate cases before the PSC.

Mayer and Crowell are both from Southeast Missouri where Noranda Aluminum Inc. operates a huge aluminum smelter. Noranda is the largest industrial electricity customer of Ameren Missouri. A Noranda representative testified against the nuclear plant bill last year, saying the firm feared its electricity rates would increase in the short term.

Kehoe said he doesn’t want to compromise his bill to the point where it would lose support of the statewide consortium of private utilities, cooperatives and municipal utilities.

Kehoe said he would like to see both his bill and the Crowell and Mayer bill approved by the committee and let the issue be settled on the Senate floor.

The Crowell-Mayer bill is endorsed by two consumer and business groups. The first is the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund (FERAF) that is comprised of the AARP, Missouri Association of Social Welfare, Consumers Council of Missouri, Anheuser-Busch, Noranda Aluminum, Ford Motor Company, and the Missouri Retailers Association.

The second group is the Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers (MIEC). It includes Monsanto, Doe Run, General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and a dozen other large Missouri industrial companies.

“There’s a fine line trying to satisfy everybody,” Kehoe said, “and still having a good business case for the partnership to go forward. It’s not just Ameren Missouri. The partnership involves other utilities, rural cooperatives and municipal utilities. We want to keep that partnership together because I think it is a good representation of all of the people across Missouri.”

“I think my proposal would put a lot of Missourians back to work and help solve our long-term energy needs in the state,” Kehoe said.

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