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PSC considers recovery of coronavirus losses


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) set a schedule to consider a request from Spire Missouri for authority to recoup losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company requested the authority to track and defer costs related to the virus in May, noting that business in its service areas had largely halted due to stay at home orders and that the company had waived disconnects and late fees for customers. The company also said it had faced the cost of equipment and technology allowing employees to work from home during that time.

Since the filing, the company and commission went back and forth on the case over the past three months, with applications to intervene in the proceedings filed by Renew Missouri, the National Housing Trust, Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers, and the Midwest Energy Consumers Group. The intervening parties submitted a procedural schedule to the PSC, setting up dates for testimony and briefings before a hearing to be held on Oct. 22. 

The commission approved the schedule during Thursday’s agenda meeting.

The commission also issued an amended report and order over tariffs filed last year by Empire District Electric Company. The tariffs were for rate increases to the company’s service areas, which the commission suspended until July 11 to allow more time to review the plans, conduct public hearings, and consult with other groups on the rate increase. 

Further adjustments were requested by the commission after the retirement of the Asbury coal plant owned by Empire. The commission issued a report and order rejecting the filings in early July and requested updated information to compensate for the loss of revenue over the plant closure. The new orders issued on Thursday rejected requests from the company to strike certain testimony from the record, and the commission again requested the filing of new information from Empire.

Additionally, the PSC considered a request for a rehearing on a case involving Missouri-American Water Company. The commission issued a report and order on the company’s application to alter an infrastructure system replacement surcharge in June. The Office of the Public Counsel (OPC) filed an application for a rehearing later that month, stating that the commission had made an error calculating the losses it had permitted the company to recover. The commission found no reason to grant a rehearing despite the OPC’s request and denied the application. 

The PSC approved an order allowing AmeriMex Communications Company to be designated as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) in Missouri. The designation will allow AmeriMex to receive federal low-income support for providing Lifeline services to Missourians. The company requested a statewide designation and expedited treatment allowing it to provide these services to customers within a month. The commission granted both requests.

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for July 29.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.