MO House to consider steel mill bill on Wednesday

MO House to consider steel mill bill on Wednesday
(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KFVS/AP) - The full Missouri House is set to consider the steel mill bill on Wednesday, May 24.

On Tuesday, a Missouri House committee endorsed the bill that authorizes discounted electric rates for steel and aluminum production facilities after removing what some considered a more controversial provision. That section of the bill would have allowed the Public Service Commission to consider new reasons for rate increases for electric companies.

Missouri lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week for a special session to consider the legislation that could make it easier to open a steel mill in the southeast part of the state.

A rally took place on the steps of the Missouri Capitol in support of the bill on Tuesday, May 23.

Buses left from Portageville, Poplar Bluff and New Madrid to take part in the rally. Several people on those buses dedicated many years to Noranda in New Madrid, Mo. For them, the aluminum smelter offered not just a job, but a career.

When Noranda closed, 900 careers disappeared.

One woman said that devastated a lot of lives. She said there just aren't enough jobs in southeast Missouri and a lot of families suffered greatly as a result.

That's why these people sat on a bus for more than four hours and headed to Jefferson City. They are fighting to get some of those jobs back through the passage of the steel mill bill.

"We need this in our area, I mean, there's no jobs around here," said Tammy Manes, whose husband worked at Noranda. "So, you know we need something like this to come in, get a job, provide for their families and just take care of themselves."

According to Rep. Don Rone of Portageville and Gov. Eric Greitens, this legislation would allow the Public Service Commission to lower utility rates for the former Noranda Aluminum Smelter to become profitable and would allow a new steel smelter to set up shop in southeast Missouri.

The Missouri House workshopped the bill on Tuesday. House committees will then forward the legislation to the House floor. From there, it goes to the Senate, which is where this effort hit a roadblock in the regular session.

Governor Eric Greitens called the special session to discuss the steel mill bill.

The governor toured several locations in southeast Missouri on Saturday ahead of the special session, including the Noranda plant in New Madrid, Mo.

A city official from New Madrid, Missouri, said the bill could attract a steel mill to the area. It could also entice a Switzerland-based company to reopen part of an old Noranda aluminum smelter that closed last year. The companies could potentially bring about 500 jobs to the area.

But some lawmakers and consumer advocates worry that the cheaper rates for certain businesses will raise utility prices for average households.

Southeast Missouri Republican Senator Doug Libla had this to say about his opposition to the bill:

"The main difference with electric legislation, such as Senate Bill 190 is that it negatively changes oversight by the PSC for decades. The Rone amendment, contained in SB302, would give the PSC the ability to use any alternative rate making mechanism regardless, if it is allowed under current law. This could lead to unnecessary rate increases, and absolutely has nothing to do with reopening the smelter or a steel mill in New Madrid. All it would do is benefit the utility company. This would leave businesses and families vulnerable to monopoly utilities, such as Ameren."

You can click here to read the full statement or take a look at it below.

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Copyright 2017 KFVS.  All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.