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Spire asks for clarification on PSC rate order

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Spire Missouri sought clarification on its rate case after the Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order last week.

Spire filed a request in December seeking an average rate increase of $3.28 per month for each customer, allowing it to recoup $64 million in expenses and invest in environmental and customer-focused initiatives. 

Although the rate increase was approved last week, the final numbers were not immediately available.

The PSC ordered Spire to stop capitalizing on its non-operational overhead costs in the order — though commissioners said during Wednesday’s agenda meeting they would continue allowing capitalization on energy plant additions that began before June 1. 

The commission also said it would not allow Spire to take the economic impact of February’s winter storms into account for its short-term debt structure — ultimately leaving more than $272 million in debt to calculate the company’s 13-month debt structure. 

Spire had joined other utilities in extending its recovery period for the cold weather event over the next three years, a move the commission said decreased the short-term debt calculations considerably. 

Missouri-American Water Company sought the authority to install and operate a water and sewer system in Garden City with an appraised value of $3 million. The commission approved the application, requiring Missouri-American to file regular updates on construction and a plan from the city to transfer its assets. 

Evergy Missouri sought to intervene in Empire District Electric Company’s application for an investment mechanism as part of its energy efficiency efforts. OPC opposed Evergy’s application, arguing the utility did not have an interest in the case because the commission’s decision would not impact similar Evergy programs. The commission sided with OPC and denied the application Wednesday.

Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI) applied for a certificate of convenience and necessity to construct, operate, and maintain a transmission line running through Perry and Cape Girardeau counties. The planned system is a collaboration with Citizens Electric Cooperative and the Wabash Valley Power Alliance to support existing Ameren infrastructure in the area. Commissioners approved the application, ordering ATXI to file regular status reports and allow impacted landowners to harvest marketable timber before construction begins.

Finally, the commission pledged to increase Missouri Universal Service Fund support for the state’s Lifeline program — which offers free phone service to low-income Missouri customers — if the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) follows through with its plan to end its support for stand-alone voice service customers. 

The commitment would increase coverage from the fund from $18.75 to $24 a month per voice-only customer. The FCC plans to cease its funding by Dec. 1 after phasing out its coverage over the last three years; Missouri phone companies have from the sunset of federal support until February to implement the increase.

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12.