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CUB Thanks Gov. Pritzker for Protecting Customers, Vetoing Expensive Ameren ‘Right of First Refusal’ Provision

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) on Wednesday thanked Gov. J.B. Pritzker for protecting Illinois consumers and issuing an amendatory veto on Ameren’s controversial “Right of First Refusal” legislation that the watchdog said would have needlessly raised costs for electric customers.

An amendment to House Bill 3445 would have given Ameren Illinois a monopoly over transmission projects. Having the “Right of First Refusal” means Ameren would have gotten first dibs on these big wire projects, thus eliminating the competitive bidding process for transmission projects in the utility’s territory.

Customers pay for these transmission projects through their electric bills, so Ameren’s proposal would have exposed customers to higher costs, at a time when they already face a record $481 million rate-hike request on another part of their power bills. Ameren customers also face the utility’s proposed $148.9 million gas hike.

“CUB thanks Governor J.B. Pritzker for protecting consumers and issuing an amendatory veto on a provision of House Bill 3445 that would have given Ameren a monopoly over transmission projects,” CUB Executive Director Sarah Moskowitz said. “Not having a competitive bidding process for transmission projects risks higher costs for electric customers.”

The amendment was introduced in the final days of the spring legislative session, in late May. CUB supporters sent messages urging their legislators to vote no, but the bill passed the Illinois Senate 41-9 and the Illinois House 63-32.

“Building new transmission can be 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,” said CUB Director of Governmental Affairs Bryan McDaniel. “Thank you to the CUB members who voiced their opposition to this bill. And thank you to Gov. Pritzker for listening to concerns about this legislation.”

Legislators would need three-fifths majority in both chambers to override the veto.