PSC Commissioners Do It Again To Noranda: Ignore and Vote Against
JEFFERSON CITY – District 25 Missouri state Sen. Doug Libla Wednesday expressed surprise and disappointment regarding the Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision to deny a rehearing for Noranda Aluminum in its ongoing feud with Ameren Missouri.
Noranda and about 40 other entities requested the rehearing, reports show. Many of the organizations were not heard from in Noranda’s initial request to the PSC for a rate decrease from the utilities giant, according to official documents.
Records indicate Ameren increased rates statewide by 43 percent since 2008 and the electric powerhouse now seeks an additional 9.6 percent hike. That equals nearly $10 more on ratepayers’ monthly bills if the appeal receives an affirmative nod from the PSC.
Ameren’s own records, which initially were closed to public inspection, reveal it profited more than PSC standards allowed.
Noranda, which is Ameren’s largest customer, paid the utility nearly $170 million last year to power the New Madrid smelter. The decrease would have meant a $30 million savings to the company during the next 12 months and an increase to Missouri ratepayers of about 90 cents, according to reports. Noranda places more than $200 million annually in support of New Madrid County, its schools and projects, according to reports.
The company sought a rate decrease in order to remain viable and sustainable, said President and CEO Layle K. “Kip” Smith. It also appealed to the PSC for financial disciplinary action against Ameren for its questionable profits, records state.
Of nine smelters left in operation nationwide, Noranda’s rates are second-highest among them, records state.
Smith announced earlier this month that Noranda will begin to layoff 125 to 200 southeast Missouri workers during the next six months in an effort to offset costs.
Also, a $45 million rod mill project might face the chopping block, which means even further job erosion to southeast Missouri, Smith said.
“I am extremely disappointed in the latest decision just handed down by the (PSC),” Libla’s statement read. “The PSC missed yet another opportunity to do something crucial for our rural economy, especially for Southeast Missouri.
“The lack of leadership for Missouri ratepayers by the PSC and Gov. Nixon is frustrating,” Libla continued. “We need urgent action now by the governor to protect these jobs, families and communities. This lackluster effort and reasoning is both puzzling and very disappointing.”
The Missouri PSC is composed of number of board member, most of them from the I-70 Saint Louis corridor. The board includes:
Chairman Robert S. Kenney
Commissioner Stephen M. Stoll
Commissioner William P. Kenney
Commissioner Daniel Y. Hall
Commissioner Scott T. Rupp
A number of elected officials, unions and organizations supported the rehearing. Among them were Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, Senator Libla, Dist. 149 state Rep. Steve Hodges, former state Rep. Dr. Terry Swinger, former state Sen. Joan Bray, AgXplore CEO Barry Aycock, state Sen. Gary Romine, and state Rep. Todd Richardson.
A SEMO TIMES reporter contacted Ameren Missouri Sunday with questions related to its costs and price of services. The reporter spoke again Tuesday with an Ameren spokesman, who said replies would be forthcoming by noon Wednesday. As of 4:20 pm Wednesday no replies were received.