On the morning of Dec. 14, 2005, a section of the upper Taum Sauk reservoir failed, releasing 1.3 billion gallons of water and destroying everything in its path all the way through Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park. In an earlier rate case, Ameren, who operates the pumped-storage hydraulic plant at Taum Sauk, admitted numerous mistakes and errors in judgment that led to the disaster.
See Also: Affordable Utilities Now
The utility, which agreed in a 2007 settlement not to charge electric customers for the cost of rebuilding, did try to sway the Public Service Commission (PSC) for approval to bill consumers millions of dollars for some “enhancements” at the plant. AARP intervened in this rate case pointing out that all of the costs of the rebuild were the direct consequence of Ameren Missouri's negligent and imprudent acts in destroying the power plant. The PSC disallowed those costs from being passed on to consumers.
In a move that represented the utility’s latest effort to recoup some of the costs of the new reservoir, Ameren Missouri appealed the PSC decision in the Western District Court of Appeals. The utility argued that consumers should pay for the enhanced value of the newly rebuilt reservoir.
As an Intervener-Respondent in this appeal, AARP filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief, defending our win at the PSC, protecting consumers from bearing any of the cost of the rebuild of the Taum Sauk reservoir. The court defended our PSC win in a decision last week, stating that the $89 million dollars of rate increases at stake could not even be called an "enhancement", because the new reservoir was required to be built as safe as current day specifications.
Today AARP and our members are celebrating a fair and just decision from both the Missouri Public Service Commission and the court of appeals. What happened at Taum Sauk was devastating. It would have been equally devastating to have electric ratepayers on the hook for Ameren’s negligence.