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Ameren gets bad measure passed in General Assembly–but Guv says he will veto

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will veto a rate-hike proposal that Ameren Illinois got passed on the last day of the General Assembly’s spring 2023 session.

Big thank you to hundreds of CUB supporters who sent messages to their legislators opposing Amendment 4 to House Bill 3445. In an emergency email CUB sent out to its supporters on Friday, May 26, the consumer group said the amendment would give Ameren a monopoly over transmission projects. They would get first dibs on these big, interstate wire projects–at potentially higher, more lucrative prices for Ameren. Not having a competitive bidding process would threaten higher costs for Ameren electric customers, as they ultimately will cover the costs of such projects on their power bills. (See our action item.)

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that such “right of first refusal” proposals–giving Ameren the exclusive right to build and operate large transmission projects–are popping up in several states. Such a proposal was defeated in Missouri, but passed in Indiana. Investment in new transmission projects–which connect resources to local power grids–is expected to grow as more federal money is available to connect wind and solar farms in rural areas to population centers.

Building new transmission is a good thing for consumers, but such projects need to be cost-efficient and a competitive bidding process helps that. That’s why CUB opposed the amendment.

“We’re a watchdog group for utility customers and we have grave concerns that Ameren is trying to slip a rate-hike proposal through at the last minute,” CUB spokesman Jim Chilsen said on the final day of the General Assembly. “Amendment 4 to House Bill 3445 would give Ameren a monopoly over transmission projects, at potentially higher, more lucrative prices for the company. This proposal will likely raise costs and is bad for consumers.”

The measure passed the Senate 41-9, earlier in the week, and passed the House 63-32 late on the last day of the session. However, Gov. Pritzker says he will veto the bill. 71 votes would be needed to override the governor’s veto.  Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action.

In separate-but-related battles with Ameren, CUB is also challenging the utility’s  $148 million gas and $481 million electric rate hikes before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).