Sunday, October 26, 2008

Messenger column explores Ameren UE contributions

Ameren UE has returned to its old ways, spreading money around to various politicians, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch political columnist Tony Messenger.

One of those who benefited from the company's generosity is Speaker-in-Waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who received a $7,000 contribution:

So what's behind the new generosity?

Two words: nuclear plant.

Ameren is in the early stages of seeking regulatory approval to build a second nuclear reactor at its Callaway County location. This multibillion-dollar project promises to be the central issue in the coming legislative session.

Compared to the '70s when Callaway 1 was built, there will be less hemming and hawing about whether or not to go nuclear this time. In light of the energy crisis, nuclear is glowing hot. The principal issue is financing.

Missouri has a law that keeps utility companies from charging consumers for construction or financing costs on plant construction until the new facility is up and operating.

Ameren wants to change this and get customers to help pay along the way. The plant will take several years to build and might cost more — $6 billion is one figure being tossed around — than the value of Ameren's other assets. In the tightening credit market, the company won't be able to raise the money to build the new plant if consumers don't help along the way, Ameren says.

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