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Opinion: A solution in search of a problem – don’t mess with Missouri’s electricity market

  

There’s a controversial bill filed in Missouri that should have families and businesses sitting up straight and taking notice. The power for setting Missourians’ electricity rates would dramatically change, and overseeing energy policy might be handed over to the federal government under a bill called Senate Joint Resolution 34 (SJR 34).

If you’re wondering why we need to go down this path, you’re not alone.

For more than a hundred years, local members of the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) have taken seriously the responsibility to ensure that Missouri families and businesses have access to affordable, reliable electricity. As a result of this regulatory system, Missouri families and small businesses pay 24 percent less than the national average for electricity and have smartly avoided the rolling blackouts seen in California and the other supply issues impacting states in New England and elsewhere.

That could all change under SJR 34. This legislation is an invitation to potentially wrestle control of the state’s energy market from PSC Commissioners, who are appointed by Missouri’s Governor and confirmed by Missouri’s State Senate, and hand it to distant officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the guise of deregulation. We’ve all seen what happens when D.C. politics get involved in energy policy – it’s a recipe for gridlock and problems.

Worse yet, SJR 34 would enshrine this regulatory shift in Missouri’s Constitution, meaning the complexities of the electricity market could not be effectively managed by officials here in Missouri to deal with real-world issues and sudden market disruptions. That means if things go wrong with the new scheme, only the lengthy and politically charged process of amending the state constitution could fix the problem.

That’s potentially the worst way to deal with public policy impacting the budgets of millions of families, seniors, energy-intensive industries, and especially those struggling to get by across Missouri.

When it comes to electricity policy, Consumer Energy Alliance’s members care about affordability, reliability, and environmental stewardship. Proponents of SJR 34 have not been able to identify problems in any of these areas across Missouri’s regulatory landscape. Why do we need to make this abrupt change that will all but set energy policy in concrete?

Average residential electric rates for deregulated states like California, New York, and those in the Northeast are substantially higher than in Missouri. According to federal data, average rates in California and New England are more than twice as high as Missouri. Cutting out the Missouri PSC would also remove many important consumer protections that currently exist in the state today and could adversely impact rates. The PSC currently prevents unreasonable rate increases and volatility in the energy market.

Missouri has also come a long way in terms of diversifying the state’s energy supply through renewables and other resources while making critical investments in modernizing the energy grid. All of these advances would be put at risk if this new regulatory scheme passes.

Here’s a simple proposition — Missourians know far better how to regulate the state’s electricity and energy policy than those out in Washington. Let’s keep it that way by defeating SJR 34. Please contact your state senator today and let them know that you don’t want to invite California’s problems or the federal government into your utility bill.

It’s only going to cost us all.