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Environmental group sues Ameren over coal plants

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm •  Published: March 5, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A national environmental group has made good on its promise to sue a St. Louis-based utility over what it calls thousands of violations of federal clean air laws.

The Sierra Club filed a federal civil lawsuit against Ameren Corp. on Wednesday in St. Louis. The complaint seeks to compel Ameren to reduce air pollution at three area power plants and asks the court to also levy financial penalties for past violations.

The suit follows a formal notice of intent to sue provided to Ameren by the Sierra Club in December. The group says Ameren's own testing shows nearly 8,000 violations since March 2009 at the utility's Meramec power plant in St. Louis County; the Rush Island plant in Jefferson County; and the Labadie plant along the Missouri River in Franklin County.

The Sierra Club cited pollution monitoring data sent by the company to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The environmental group held a news conference outside the federal courthouse downtown featuring several residents who live near the Ameren Missouri plants.

They cited research suggesting that air pollution from the three plants contributed to thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of heart attacks and premature deaths each year. A Sierra Club organizer called the plants, which range in age from 38 to 60 years old, "the dinosaurs of the energy sector."

"Our region is considered the toxic triangle because of all the polluting industries," said Gary Kappler, a Festus resident who said he suffers from chronic bronchitis, while his grandson has asthma. "My family lived and farmed in the region long before Ameren built the Rush Island coal plant."

The suit comes as Ameren Missouri prepares to build a coal ash landfill next to the Labadie power plant, a project that also has drawn opposition from environmental groups. Ameren is delaying landfill construction amid a request by Franklin County to include six additional groundwater monitoring wells at the landfill, despite DNR assurances that Ameren's groundwater monitoring plan is adequate. The company also wants to build a coal ash landfill at Rush Island.

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