Monday, June 9, 2014

Utility War Heats Up Again

After a relatively quiet legislative session, the Utility War, characterized by back and forth between Ameren and their biggest customer, Noranda, appears to be heating up again.

It’s being waged through their surrogate groups, but the intensification appears to be timed ahead of public meetings on the complaints that Noranda brought before the Public Service Commission earlier this year.

FERAF has been exerting some grassroots muscle – with phone calls and door-to-door activity.  And MBEF has been messaging through a series of “countdown” emails in advance of the hearings.

One interesting bit turned up on the PSC website over the weekend.  The commission staff weighing in on aspects of the Noranda’s request for a rate reduction.  See it here.  Obviously commissioners may do as they please and are not bound by the staff position.

Here are excerpts from that filing…

1. Is Noranda experiencing a liquidity crisis such that it is likely to cease operations at its New Madrid smelter if it cannot obtain relief of the sort sought here? 

Staff’s Position:  Noranda’s representatives have consistently indicated that the smelter is facing financial difficulties for some time now.  However, Staff has not independently investigated Noranda’s financial circumstances. 

1a. If so, would the closure of the New Madrid smelter represent a significant detriment to the economy of Southeast Missouri, to local tax revenues, and to state tax revenues? 

Staff’s Position:  Staff has not independently investigated this issue and notes that none of the parties has presented a thorough economic impact study for the Commission’s consideration. 

1b. If so, can the Commission lawfully grant the requested relief? 

Staff’s Position:  The Commission can lawfully grant the requested relief if, upon consideration of all relevant factors, the Commission determines that the requested relief is in the public interest and is neither unduly preferential nor unduly discriminatory.  The fact is that Noranda is the largest single customer on Ameren Missouri’s system and has unique characteristics; it constitutes a customer class of one.  The Commission may, therefore, properly determine the treatment to be accorded this customer class.  However, it is Staff’s position that all relevant factors have not been presented in this docket.  As a practical matter, the Commission can grant the requested relief if all of the parties consent.

1c. If so, should the Commission grant the requested relief? 

Staff’s Position:  No.  Staff’s analysis of Noranda’s proposal does not support it and all relevant factors have not been presented in this docket…

2. Would rates for Ameren Missouri’s ratepayers other than Noranda be lower if Noranda remains on Ameren Missouri’s system at the reduced rate? 

Staff’s Position:  No.  Staff estimates other customers would experience a rate impact in the range of a $12.3 to $21.6 million increase if Noranda leaves the Ameren Missouri system… Staff estimates that Noranda’s requested $30/MWh rate is… below Ameren Missouri’s variable cost of providing service to Noranda.  Staff estimates that providing service to Noranda at $30/MWh would result in an additional cost to other customers of approximately $6.2 to $15.5 million per year, using this year’s estimated wholesale power costs.  Together, the difference between what other customers would pay if Noranda leaves Ameren Missouri’s system and what other customers would pay if Noranda receives service at $30/MWh is approximately $27,760,000 annually…

3. Would it be more beneficial to Ameren Missouri’s ratepayers other than Noranda for Noranda to remain on Ameren Missouri’s system at the requested reduced rate than for Noranda to leave Ameren Missouri’s system entirely?

Staff’s Position:  As described in its answer to Issue 2, above, Staff has determined that it would not be more beneficial from a rate perspective…

Dooley-Stenger a Ground-Air War?

With St. Louis Councilman Steve Stenger up on television early, one wonders if this race may pivot on a strategic calculation.  Charlie Dooley’s team has been on the ground for months, investing money, time and resources in door-knocking, phone calls, grass-roots field operations.  Stenger can’t duplicate a similar get out the vote effort in the final two months. 

Rex for Ashcroft

In the large contributions below, Rex Sinquefield gave $25,000 to Jay Ashcroft, Republican running in Senate 24.

Spencer Loses Suit

The Post-Dispatch reports on Rep. Bryan Spencer’s suit that he was wrongly fired from the Francis Howell School District.  See it here.

Pull Quote: The Francis Howell School Board didn’t violate state Rep. Bryan Spencer’s free speech rights when it fired him from his teaching job last year, a jury decided Friday. The verdict capped a three-day trial on the Wentzville Republican’s legal challenge of his dismissal and the board’s refusal to give him an unpaid leave of absence while in the Legislature. He also sought monetary damages… Board attorney Eric Banks insisted that Spencer’s leave was rejected because he was breaking his contract committing him to work the full school year as a special education teacher. The board had no political motivation, Banks said.

Spencer’s side from his Facebook page: I was in court all week with the Francis Howell disagreement over granting an unpaid leave. I want to thank everyone for their love and support throughout the week. I thought my attorneys did an outstanding job in presenting the facts of the case. The other side....it was very alarmingly interesting. In either case; the jury came back with a 10-2 verdict in favor of Francis Howell. It is unclear to me to the reason why the jury came to that decision but it was their decision. I respect their verdict.

 

This was a case that will set precedence for people to become citizens legislator as our founding fathers intended for our country. I will continue to fight for what is right in education and other issues that we face as a nation/people.

 

God has another plan for me. I appreciate the 22 years that I have been able to grow as a professional in educating the students of Francis Howell School District…

JJ Dinner

Democrats met over the weekend in downtown St. Louis for the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.  See the Post-Dispatch coverage here.  One Dems joked to me… “It was great… because Jay Nixon wasn’t there…”

Missouri Students Headed to Service Academies

From US Senator Claire McCakill’s  press release: St. Louis Students Nominated by McCaskill Accepted to Prestigious U.S. Service Academies…

 

Accepted to U.S. Air Force Academy

Remington Hoyer, Warrensburg Senior High School

Elisha Phillips, Home School

Thomas Prinslow, Park Hill South High School

Nicolas Russell, Central High School

Jeremiah Doyle, St. Louis University High School

Thomas Prinslow, Park Hill South High School

 

Accepted to U.S. Naval Academy

Simeon Brewster, Christ Preparatory Academy

John Bantle, Rockwood Summit High School

Brent Huffines, Lafayette High School

Lianne Marquez, Fort Zumwalt West High School

Danielle McIntosh, Duchesne High School

Jacob Ruby, Warrenton High School

Kaycee Kimbrow, Poplar Bluff Senior High School

 

Accepted to U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Adrian Shanahan, Waynesville High School

Alexis Konarik, Fort Zumwalt West High School

Christopher Raymond, Lafayette High School

Kevin Root, Lafayette High School

Ryan Schweitzer, Hillsboro Senior High School

Christopher Radford, Bourbon High School

 

Accepted to U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Katherine Mason, Waynesville High School

Help Wanted

Missouri Municipal League seeks Policy and Membership Associate.  “An employee in this classification is responsible for receiving, analyzing, researching and resolving concerns or answering questions and providing explanations related to the operation of Missouri municipalities…. Work may also include representing the League at conferences, member education activities, seminars and speaking engagements… Interprets state statutes, regulations and guidelines to municipal officials and the general public… Functions as liaison with state and federal agencies, legislators, regional planning commissions, local government officials, community organization’s and the general public… Participates in the development, implementation or interpretation of new or revised MML legislative initiatives. Duties may include lobbying for League issues…. Salary: $40,000 - $55,000.”  See the ad here.

 

Fundraising Calendar

Today’s fundraising events from Mary Scruggs’ indispensable events calendar:

Rep. Dave Hinson Golf – Sullivan Country Club – 10 a.m.

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Pete Stayton deleted Cornerstone Health Care Inc, and Cornerstone Healthcare.

Abe Rakov deleted Office of the Missouri Secretary of State.

Miles Ross deleted Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future, and Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield.

Hallie Utley deleted Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Notes on Registrations: Rakov is still with the secretary of state’s office.  He’d registered because he was working on a few legislatives issues this year but without any of that on horizon is not unregistering.

$5K+ Contributions

Citizens to Elect Kurt Schaefer Attorney General - $25,000 from RAI Services.

UTU-PAC - $9,000 from United Transportation Union PAC.

Ashcroft for Missouri - $25,000 from Rex Sinquefield.

Missourians for Koster - $10,000 from The James Dowd Law Firm.

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to Pearce’s Matthew Michelson (33) and Lon Lowrey (66).