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Federal Judge Orders Ameren To Install Air Pollution Controls At Two Power Plants

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel ordered Ameren Missouri to install air pollution controls at the Labadie Energy Center until it removes sulfur dioxide emissions equal to the excessive amount emitted by the Festus-based plant.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel ordered Ameren Missouri to install air pollution controls at the Labadie Energy Center until it removes sulfur dioxide emissions equal to the excessive amount emitted by the Festus-based plant.

A federal judge on Monday ordered Ameren Missouri to install devices at its power plants in Festus and Labadie to remove harmful air pollutants. 

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel ruled that Ameren has 90 days to apply for a Clean Air Act permit from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to install scrubbers at the Rush Island Energy Center in Festus.

The decision comes as a victory to people who have long advocated for clean air quality around the two power plants, said Andy Knott, a campaign representative for the Sierra Club. 

“These [Clean Air Act] violations have been going on for years and have cost people living in the area in terms of asthma attacks and premature deaths,” Knott said. “It’s really just time for Ameren to move on and stop dragging its feet and clean the air that hundreds of thousands of people in the region are breathing.” 

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel ordered Ameren Missouri to install air pollution controls at the Labadie Energy Center until it removes sulfur dioxide emissions equal to the excessive amount emitted by the Festus-based plant.
Credit Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
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U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel ordered Ameren Missouri to install air pollution controls at the Labadie Energy Center until it removes sulfur dioxide emissions equal to the excessive amount emitted by the Festus-based plant.

The utility also has three years to install similar technologies at the Labadie Energy Center, a facility in 2017 that ranked as the fourth-highest sulfur dioxide emitter in the U.S. The technology would operate at the Labadie plant “until it reduces the pollution from Labadie in an amount equal to the excess emissions from Rush Island,” Sippel said in his ruling.Loading...

Sippel’s long-awaited order follows his 2017 ruling that Ameren had violated the Clean Air Act in upgrading boiler equipment at the Rush Island Energy Center in the late 2000s. The Environmental Protection Agency sued the utility in 2011 for raising sulfur dioxide emissions after installing the boiler equipment. 

Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas that can cause asthma and worsen respiratory illnesses. The Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter and residents near the plants had pressed Ameren to install scrubbers for many years. 

An Ameren spokesperson said the company plans to appeal the ruling. The utility’s officials have often said in the past that its power plants are in compliance with the Clean Air Act and that installing pollution control devices would be an unnecessary expense that could be costly for customers. 

Ameren spent about $600 million to install scrubbers in 2010 at its Sioux Energy Center in West Alton.

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Eli Chen is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes to St. Louis after covering the eroding Delaware coast, bat-friendly wind turbine technology, mouse love songs and various science stories for Delaware Public Media/WDDE-FM. Before that, she corralled robots and citizen scientists for the World Science Festival in New York City and spent a brief stint booking guests for Science Friday’s live events in 2013. Eli grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where a mixture of teen angst, a love for Ray Bradbury novels and the growing awareness about climate change propelled her to become the science storyteller she is today. When not working, Eli enjoys a solid bike ride, collects classic disco, watches standup comedy and is often found cuddling other people’s dogs. She has a bachelor’s in environmental sustainability and creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has a master’s degree in journalism, with a focus on science reporting, from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.