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Noranda Aluminum Inc. is seeking a special electric power rate from Ameren even lower than the special rate it already has. Noranda is asking the Missouri Public Service Commission to approve a money-losing rate it says Ameren could recover by charging more to its other 1.2 million electric customers.

Granted, Noranda is by far Ameren’s largest customer, but for sheer bravado the rate-setting commission surely has never seen the equal.

Noranda throws its weight around, threatening to cut employment at its New Madrid smelter or even close down if Ameren and the PSC don’t grant the unprecedented rate cut. Noranda says if it closes, Ameren would come up $55 million short of revenue needed to maintain earnings allowed by the commission.

Not true, say PSC staffers. Ameren would be better off financially without Noranda. If the cost shift proposed by Noranda goes into effect, other Ameren customers would pay some $28 million more annually.

Everyone hopes Noranda can survive and thrive, but it makes no sense for its financial salvation to come at the expense of rational rate regulation policy and out of the pockets of Ameren’s 1.2 million other customers.

Already Ameren has given Noranda a favorable rate commensurate with the company’s large demand. Electricity is the largest single cost for a smelter, but that doesn’t mean the public should provide whatever it takes in subsidies to satisfy the company’s allegation of need. At some point, as the PSC staff points out, it makes more sense to draw a line.

The Public Service Commission will decide this case in August. In the meantime, Noranda and Ameren will be out and about campaigning to influence the commissioners. …

Only when the official line is drawn will we know what Noranda really will do, but it’s not a game of chicken. The bottom line is fair rate policy. Noranda simply wants too much special treatment at the expense of everyone else.


The Kansas City Star, June 22

Vote ‘no’ on gun and data questions:

At first glance two questions on Missouri’s August 5 ballot appear harmless enough.

One asks voters to affirm that “the right to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right.” Another seeks to protect Missourians’ electronic communications and data from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Both questions are proposed amendments to the state constitution. Although they appear innocuous, they are freighted with potential harmful consequences and could impede the work of law enforcement agencies.

Even the lawmakers who voted to place the questions on the ballot disagree on what they actually say or do. About the only thing that’s certain is that the questions are almost certain to drag the state into costly future court battles.

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