By Barry Dalton
In March of 2001, Duke Energy North America (DENA) sold 100 percent interest in the 640-megawatt power plant under construction just west of Vandalia to NRG Energy Inc., which later sold it to Ameren Missouri. Construction of the natural gas-fired facility began in May 2000 but was not fully operational for several more years, after being sold to Ameren.
DENA was Duke Energy’s Houston-based wholesale power company. Part of the original agreement that DENA made with Audrain County was to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT payments) for 20 years after the plant became operational.
When Ameren Missouri purchased the station, it took over the agreement. It has a similar agreement with the City of Bowling Green for the Peno Creek Energy Center.
This means the last payments that Audrain County agencies and Bowling Green will receive will be in December 2022. Ameren will not pay local property taxes in 2023; instead it will begin paying taxes to the Missouri State Tax Commission.
Those taxes will be distributed by the commission to all of the counties that Ameren services in Missouri–resulting in significant budget cuts to local school districts and agencies. Currently, Ameren Missouri’s service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area.
Rep. Kent Haden has sponsored a bill to help keep tax payments in the local area since that is the area maintaining the infrastructure for the facilities. Sen. Jeannie Riddle has sponsored a similar bill. Both bills seem to be making progress and are expected to get hearings during this legislative session.
“We have a hearing before the public utility committee on March 10,” Haden said.
Ameren Missouri makes $200,000 in PILOT payments to the City of Bowling Green annually. The City then transfers $9,922 to Pike County and $24,336 to the Bowling Green School District.
In Audrain County, PILOT proceeds are sent to the Van-Far School District ($271,593.14), Tri-County Nursing Home ($23,281.60), the Vandalia Ambulance District ($22,582.03), the Vandalia Special Road ($31,849.50), the Audrain Library ($18,997.66), Audrain Developmental Disability Services ($18,997.66), State of Missouri ($4,382.81), Audrain County General Revenue ($14,697.23), and Audrain Special Road and Bridge ($24,978.70).
The payment amounts for individual agencies and schools if a bill passes have not yet been worked out.
“I think we are making progress on my bill,” Haden said. “Ameren has agreed to not be opposed to allowing the money to stay in Audrain if we could all agree to use the same assessment rate that is used by the Public Service commission. This may be some less than we are currently receiving but better than a statewide assessment.”
The Audrain and Bowling Green facilities are “peaking plants” that provide energy to the grid during times of critical demand.
Peno Creek Energy Center file photo