Bills that would give utility companies more control over rates get Senate approval

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A bill that would allow utility providers to temporarily adjust rates may be introduced in the Missouri Senate this month. Another similar, more expansive bill received the blessing of a Senate energy committee on Wednesday.

Current Missouri law allows gas corporations to apply for temporary rate adjustments, meaning utilities can temporarily raise or lower rates. Price changes are only allowed in two cases: weather and conservation-related losses.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, broadens the types of utilities that may adjust rates and allows for companies to raise rates in cases of consumer-related losses.

In real terms, this means that if households consume less water, utilities can charge higher rates to shore up losses.

A more expansive bill — sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, the chairman of the committee — broadens this power to gas and electric companies as well.

Emery said the legislation provides transparency. Speaking in favor of both acts, energy utilities lobbyists and environment advocates argued the measures manage volatility of customer bills and lead to more consumer savings and efficiency.

Representatives of local consumer protection groups expressed grave concerns with the bills. They said such laws would effectively punish Missouri consumers and warned lawmakers against passing "the risk on your constituents."

Consumer advocates pointed to Minnesota, where similar legislation led to a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in customers' bills.

Regardless, the bills passed in the Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee.

Supervising editor is Dylan Jackson, Dylanjackson@mail.missouri.edu.

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