The Illinois Commerce Commission has directed its staff to put forth an action plan for a formal inquiry, investigation or audit of Ameren’s preparedness and post-storm response to the devastating ice and snow storm on Nov. 30 in the central and southern portions of the state.

The unanimous decision by the ICC to move forward comes on the heels of the storm that crippled parts of downstate Illinois, causing heavy and widespread ice accumulations that toppled trees and downed power lines.

Ameren was under intense scrutiny as it sought to restore power to nearly 240,000 Illinois customers who lost power on Nov. 30. On Dec. 6, roughly 65,000 customers were still without electric service. The outages were concentrated in the Metro East area and throughout central Illinois, including Decatur and Bloomington.

"This is the second major, widespread and prolonged power outage this year for Ameren," said ICC Commissioner Kevin Wright. "Without prejudging the company’s response, we think it’s fair to examine the situation and ask the hard questions for the public we serve."

"No utility can totally prepare for this type of storm, but we have an obligation and responsibility to question whether Ameren fully planned its response and recovery from a logistical standpoint," said Commissioner Erin O-Connell-Diaz.

"Simply put, we need to find out if the utility is doing all it can to plan, prepare and respond to these types of situations," Wright said.

The ICC has initiated numerous investigations in the past, looking into system reliability, maintenance programs and other utility systems that impact the overall stability of the power grid.

The staff recommendation will be considered at the Commission’s next public meetings scheduled on Dec. 19 and 20.