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New EPA standards to protect health will force Missouri power plants to reduce emissions

Pipe producing air pollution
Pawel Czerwinski
According to data from the Clean Air Task Force, in Missouri, more than 300 premature deaths per year are attributed to three main power plants.

Power plants in Missouri will need to change their practices after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized four rules to reduce emissions Thursday.

The new standards are designed to protect communities that experience air, water and land pollution from fossil fuels.

“The four public health safeguards are historic,” said Andy Knott, deputy regional field director for the environmental organization, Sierra Club. “They will finally hold super-polluting utilities like Ameren Missouri accountable for the toxic air and water pollution and its outsized contribution to the climate crisis.”

In Missouri, more than 300 premature deaths per year are attributed to three main power plants, according to data from the Clean Air Task Force.

Ameren Missouri’s plant in Franklin County, Labadie, is one of the nation’s most deadly coal-burning power plants, contributing to 195 premature deaths annually. The New Madrid and Thomas Hill Two plants owned by Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. are also among the highest polluting plants in the country, contributing to 133 premature deaths together.

“For years, AECI chose to spew massive amounts of harmful pollution into Missouri communities from its New Madrid and Thomas Hill coal-burning power plants and would have continued to do so if the federal government didn’t force them to stop,” said Brian Smith, Missouri organizing representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Knott said the plants operated by the Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. plan to continue operations indefinitely. Ameren intends to continue into the 2040s.

“Climate science tells us that to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need to retire all coal by 2030 and replace that with clean energy,” Knott said.

One of the new safeguards addressing carbon pollution will require the coal-burning plants to dramatically reduce their emissions, or replace them with clean energy.

“[Clean energy] is the direction that all these utilities should be going because they will be saving ratepayers money, and they will be eliminating their impact on many Missourians.”

One of the other standards, on mercury and air toxics, will also require the power plants to install modern pollution control devices.

Should any of the safeguards be challenged in court, Knott said the Sierra Club intends to assist with defending them in court.

EPA said its standards will allow plants plenty of time to plan for the changes.

Knott said the effects of the new rules will improve the quality of life for Missourians that live near the plants.

“EPA’s announcement…this week is a huge victory for public health in this country,” he said. “And we just call on the utilities to get behind this and do what's right for Missourians.”

Lilley Halloran is majoring in journalism and constitutional democracy at the University of Missouri, with minors in political science and history. She is a reporter for KBIA, and has previously completed two internships with St. Louis Public Radio.
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