JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – SB 944, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, would force the Public Service Commission to publicly disclose the quarterly earnings of state-regulated utility companies including Ameren UE, Kansas City Power and Light, and Empire Electric Company.
“The intent of this bill is to make sure that monopoly utility companies are not over earning,” Brown said. “The only reason for a company to exist is to make a profit. I, of course, want utilities to be profitable, but I also don’t want them to over earn at the expense of the working men and women of this state.”
The bill comes on the heels of an over-earning complaint filed by Noranda Aluminum against Ameren to the PSC last month. Because utility companies are allowed to operate as regional monopolies they have an earnings cap on their profits at a rate of 9.8 percent of their earnings. In 2012, Ameren admitted in its own reports that it had over-earned by $80 million.
“I feel that I have a fiduciary responsibility to those in my district and across the state to make sure those utilities are able to thrive but not over earn by gouging the rate payers,” Brown said. “This has always been an interest of mine. In fact, last year, I was recognized by the Missouri Association for Social Welfare (a group I often disagree with) for my efforts at holding the utilities feet to the fire – so to speak.”
The bill forces utility companies to file quarterly reports to the PSC detailing all its earnings in the 12-month period prior to that quarter. Several of the companies are already filing such reports with the commission. Included in the language of the bill is a provision keeping certain information, like trade secrets, out of the publicized report. The bill does not specify the nature of the public report.
“It’s vital that earnings information about how much regulated monopoly utility companies are earning is made publicly available,” said Chris Roepe, executive director for the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund. “Adding transparency to this part of the regulatory process will help alert the public regarding situations where utilities are earning excess profits at our expense. Utility over-earnings cost Missouri consumers millions of dollars, and there is very little recourse, besides filing an over-earnings complaint, for consumers to get a reduction in rates.”
Irl Scissors, the executive director of Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future, said, “Transparency is an essential component of government oversight. However, quadrupling the bureaucratic burden of an already heavily regulated industry would have a chilling impact on Missouri’s economy. SB 944 grows government, discourages investment in infrastructure, and could cost Missouri jobs.”
The PSC declined to comment on ongoing legislation.