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Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2001

Officials kept in dark about utility’s plans

July 29, 2001

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— Missouri regulators accepted the Kansas City Power & Light Co.'s apology for not informing them about plans to build a power plant near Weston and said they would recommend approval of the utility's reorganization plan.

Kelvin Simmons, chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission, set a vote for Tuesday on the reorganization.

The meeting Friday was called by the regulators, who wanted an explanation for why they had not known about the plans for the Weston plant until reading about them in a newspaper.

At the meeting, an attorney for the utility said information about the plant hadn't been provided in part because it wasn't considered relevant to the reorganization plans.

In retrospect, KCP&L said, it should have put the information in the record for regulators to consider.

"We should never have allowed this to happen," attorney James Fischer said.

He said information about the Weston plant had been circulating since February, although some specifics such as its name Weston Bend 1 had been disclosed only recently. The utility should have given all the information directly to regulators, he said.

Kevin Thompson, an administrative judge for the commission, said he saw nothing to indicate that KCP&L had intended to conceal the information or breached its "duty of candor" with regulators.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate," he said, borrowing a line from the movie "Cool Hand Luke."

Earlier this month, the Public Service Commission approved the reorganization plan, under which a holding company would be created to oversee three firms. Those firms would include KCP&L's current wholesale subsidiary, Great Plains Power, which could build and operate new power plants, including the one near Weston.

But shortly after approving the reorganization, commission members were shown the news story about the proposed power plant. They set aside their approval of the reorganization until they were told why information about the Weston plant was not provided.

Great Plains Power, currently an unregulated subsidiary of KCP&L, plans to build the 500- to 900-megawatt plant near Weston. KCP&L said it intended for Great Plains Power to build up to five coal-fired power plants of that size in the central United States over the next several years. The power is to be sold on the wholesale market.

KCP&L executives said Friday that they wanted the reorganization because the holding company setup would better shield KCP&L from any risks of Great Plains' operations and would increase the value of Great Plains.

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