- Associated Press - Thursday, July 24, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A day after regulators said they opposed a request by Ameren Missouri’s biggest customer for a rate reduction of about $50 million a year, a panel that advocates for retail ratepayers proposed a deal that would give the company just over half of what it was seeking.

The Missouri Public Service Commission hasn’t adopted a final order on Noranda Aluminum’s rate request, but on Wednesday all five commissioners said they were against lowering the special rate paid by the southeast Missouri smelter.

If Noranda is successful in getting its rate lowered, Ameren’s customers in the St. Louis area or its shareholders could take a financial hit, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1t0pWvn) reported.

Noranda, Missouri’s only primary aluminum smelter and one of about 10 in the U.S., spends about $170 million a year on electricity - roughly one-third of the company’s expenses.

Its plea for a 25 percent rate reduction could push other customer bills up by about 2 percent. The request Thursday by the Missouri Office of Public Counsel would reduce Noranda’s electric rate by 16 percent instead.

When it filed its request in February, Noranda warned that it might have to close its plant if it didn’t get the lower rate. The company argued that it was facing a “liquidity crisis” that put its operations and the economic health of the state’s Bootheel region in jeopardy.

Noranda, which uses as much electricity as the city of Springfield, said about 900 well-paying union jobs in one of the poorest part of the state depend on a lower electric bill.

Ameren and its ratepayers would be hurt more by the plant’s closing than they would by a rate reduction, Noranda officials said.

Several commissioners said the company had other options, and its situation was not as grim as Noranda was trying to make it appear.

“I’m not unsympathetic to Noranda’s argument; I’m just not persuaded that their liquidity position was either as dire as they were make it out to be, or if it is as dire as they make it out to be, that it couldn’t be satisfied through other means,” PSC Chairman Robert Kenney said Wednesday.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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