Ameren Faces Legal Action After Nearly 10,000 Clean Air Act Violations at St. Louis-Area Coal Plants

Community Members and Health Leaders Demand Clean Air in St. Louis after Decades of Pollution from Outdated Coal Plants

ST. LOUIS–(ENEWSPF)–December 12, 2013. Today, the Sierra Club delivered a notice of intent letter to Ameren Corporation, citing cause to take legal action against the utility for nearly 10,000 violations of the federal Clean Air Act from emissions at its coal-fired power plants located in St. Louis, Jefferson and Franklin counties in Missouri.

“Particle pollution can get deep down into lungs and cause respiratory and pulmonary problems,” said Dr. William Kincaid, MD, MPH, former Director of Health for the City of St. Louis and current Chairman of the St. Louis Regional Asthma Consortium. “Opacity is one way of measuring particle pollution. Ameren’s own data shows that it recorded close to 10,000 opacity violations, which means that St. Louis communities are repeatedly exposed to unlawful amounts of dangerous pollution.”

The basis for the Clean Air Act violations is data collected by Ameren itself at its own facilities using electronic continuous opacity monitoring systems. Ameren reports data from its coal plants’ monitoring systems quarterly to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In an effort to investigate and protect Missouri’s air, the Sierra Club requested the data from Missouri DNR, which revealed egregious violations of the Clean Air Act by exceeding the opacity limits allowed in Ameren’s permit on thousands of occasions between 2008 and 2013.

“Ameren’s Meramec coal plant emits troubling levels of pollutants just a mile down the road from one of our local elementary schools,” said Karl Frank, Jr., St. Louis County Father and former Mehlville School Board member. “We can’t allow our children to be exposed to this dangerous coal pollution anymore. It is time for Ameren to start investing in more clean energy like wind and solar so we can halt the consequences of coal pollution on our children.”

Research by the Clean Air Task Force has shown that pollution from Ameren’s Labadie coal plant in Franklin County, Meramec coal plant in St. Louis County and Rush Island coal plant in Jefferson County contribute to 3,870 asthma attacks, 360 heart attacks and 226 premature deaths every year. According to the Respiratory Health Association, hospitalization rates for asthma are highest for those under four years of age and over 65 years of age.

“Ameren is placing the true cost of burning coal onto society as a whole. People with heart disease, COPD and asthma are the hardest hit,” said Dr. Daniel Berg, MD, MPH, a physician and father of two. “It is important that they move away from coal to energy efficiency, wind and solar.”

“Communities in St. Louis have endured decades of pollution from Ameren’s coal plants and we are ready to leave toxic air and water in the past,” said Andrea Gross, St. Louis mother. “We want a healthy place for our families to grow and thrive. We’re ready for clean energy and efficiency to replace dependence on fossil fuels.”
Ameren draws more than 75 percent of its energy from coal-fired power plants, far more than the national utility average of 42 percent. The utility has only installed widely available pollution control technology at one of its area coal-fired power plants.

After facing severe debt in Illinois, Ameren recently shed ownership of its coal-fired power plants in Illinois in a no-cash sale. Ameren’s Illinois plants sold power to the open market rather than to customers, making it difficult to pass the costs of pollution upgrades to customers as it does in Missouri.

“Our neighbors in the Midwest are doubling down on clean energy and locking in record-low wind energy prices, but Ameren keeps Missouri lagging behind and hooked on coal,” said Andy Knott, Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign in Missouri. “Between the tons of pollution and the rising costs, Ameren is well aware that coal is a dangerous risk for customers and for health yet they continue to do nothing about it. It’s time to move beyond coal and spur clean energy development here in Missouri too.”

The Sierra Club is required by law to provide 60 days’ notice of its intent to sue before it can file suit in federal court. The Sierra Club has invited Ameren to discuss the violations during that 60-day window in the hope that an amicable resolution may be reached. However, if Ameren fails to completely resolve its Clean Air Act violations during that time period, the Sierra Club will move forward with legal action for the utility’s Clean Air Act violations.

To view the notice of intent letter delivered to Ameren, please click here: