Peculiar, Missouri and retroactive policymaking

Michael Giberson

Retroactive policymaking is all the rage in Washington, D.C., these days, with Congress discovering after the fact that policy made in haste a few months ago needs to be fixed, and now rushing to fix it.

A recent regulatory settlement in Missouri shows the state to be ahead of the game in retroactive policymaking.  A report from Platts has more detail, and much, much more detail is available in the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) order of March 18, but in brief the story is:

  • In 2005, Aquila began construction of a 315 MW peaking power plant near Peculiar, Missouri without either county or state PSC permits. Aquila said it believed then existing general permits from the PSC provided it authority to proceed.
  • Cass County and local residents sued.
  • The PSC retroactively awards Aquila a permit for the project.
  • A court overturned the PSC’s retroactive grant of the permit.
  • The Missouri legislature then granted the PSC authority to retroactively approve the project.
  • Cass County and Aquila settled their differences in January 2009.
  • This week the Missouri PSC accepted the settlement.

The episode has not been all hugs and smiles for the folks involved. See, for instance, this news story from the Kansas City Star describing a judge’s email (sent to “several hundred recipients” according to the story) blasting a state legislator for filing a bill last year to, in effect, override the court decisions directing Aquila to dismantle the plant.

Yes, Peculiar really is the name of the nearby town in Cass County, Missouri.