Why Isn't Ameren Showing Contrition Over Taum Sauk Disaster?

You really have to wonder why Ameren has not been showing any contrition in the Taum Sauk disaster.

At some point you think you would have seen some Ameren quotes somewhere saying “we’re sorry.” But that hasn’t shown up in any of the media reports (although Ameren’s chief exec at least admitted in the Post-Dispatch that they would be responsible — see artcle at bottom).

Rarely do you see such black and white corporate malfeasance as the plant controlled wirelessly more than 100 miles away overflowed in September and was showing major problems with its monitoring equipment.

The irony of course is that the plant was seemingly a “green” solution to generating electricity as it didn’t pollute and and instead was self-maintaining as it pumped water up in off peak hours to let it go on peak hours.

But there’s nothing on the company’s web site except pretty pictures and a simple description in happier days.

The first acknowledgement of the disaster came on January 17 — more than a month after the December 14 collapse as Ameren noted the disaster might affect its earnings.

The official press release makes two mentions:

“Compared to 2005, earnings in 2006 are expected to benefit from the lack of a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage at our Callaway nuclear plant, continued solid power markets, improved plant operations and organic growth in our service territory,” said Gary L. Rainwater, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Ameren Corporation. “However, we anticipate that earnings in 2006 will be negatively impacted by increased coal and related transportation costs and the lack of the availability of our 440 megawatt Taum Sauk pumped-storage plant.”

and this (noting the company’s plans to rebuild):

The following factors, in addition to those discussed elsewhere in this release and in our filings with the SEC, could cause actual results to differ materially from management expectations as suggested by such forward-looking statements:

generation plant construction, installation, availability and performance, including costs associated with the Taum Sauk pump-storage plant incident and its future use;

Ameren Media Center Photos of Taum Sauk in Happier Days
Ameren Description of the Plant

AMEREN ANNOUNCES 2006 EARNINGS GUIDANCE Updates 2005 Earnings Guidance
January 17, 2006
Associated Press (via Columbia Tribune)

Other News Linkage:
Blunt, Nixon battle over reservoir investigation
January 18, 2006

Yesterday morning, Gov. Matt Blunt wrote to Attorney General Jay Nixon calling for him to initiate any possible civil or criminal litigation against the utility and to “punish any wrongdoing on the part of AmerenUE or any of its officials.”

That led Nixon to inform Missouri Department of Natural Resources director Doyle Childers that the governor had turned over “the investigation and resolution of all legal issues arising out of the Taum Sauk Reservoir’s breach” to the attorney general’s office. Nixon requested a copy of DNR’s findings by the end of the business day.

He also insisted that the DNR not communicate with AmerenUE, unless Nixon’s office cleared the communication in advance, because the governor had suggested criminal charges were possible against Ameren.

Later yesterday, Blunt told Nixon he had misinterpreted his instructions.

“I did not authorize you to take over any investigation, nor did I authorize you to attempt to usurp any of DNR’s authority or stop DNR from communicating with AmerenUE,” Blunt wrote.

Ameren wants to rebuild Taum Sauk
January 17, 2005
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis-based Ameren said it is insured for the loss of the plant and damage to the park, but not having the 440-megawatt Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant available this year will cost the company about $14 million to $25 million in earnings, or 7 cents to 12 cents a share.

On Tuesday, Blunt and Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., sent letters to FERC, asking why its routine inspections in August found no signs of problems that led to the failure.

Talent’s spokesman, Rich Chrismer, said if the senator is not satisfied with FERC’s report, “he’s going to call for congressional hearings or additional investigation.”

Ameren has pledged to cooperate with investigators.

“Frankly, we were rather surprised by the governor’s action,” Rainwater said during Tuesday’s call. “From day one, we stated that we would accept full responsibility for this incident.”

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