Enviro groups claim Missouri PSC has no power to approve Labadie landfill

Labadie Environmental Organization and the Sierra Club asked the Missouri Public Service Commission on March 25 to dismiss a Union Electric application for a new coal combustion waste landfill at the Labadie plant on the contention that the PSC has no statutory authority to approve utility landfills.

Union Electric d/b/a Ameren Missouri, which is a unit of Ameren (NYSE: AEE), applied on Jan. 24 for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) to construct and operate a utility waste landfill at its Labadie plant.

The PSC, as a regulatory body delegated specific authority by the state General Assembly, does not have jurisdiction to grant a CCN for a utility waste landfill, said the environmental groups. The Public Service Commission Law and its attendant regulations do not mention landfills or utility waste disposal in any way, they added.

“Utility waste landfills are not an inherent part of an electric plant,” the groups claimed. “To the extent that disposal is needed, utility waste landfills need not be located on the site of the electricity generation. Utilities may construct and operate a utility waste landfill on the site of their electric plant, but they do not have to; rather, they may transport their waste to a utility waste landfill at another site. In fact, the utility need not even own or operate a utility waste landfill itself – it may contract for the disposal of its waste with the third-party owner and operator of a utility waste landfill. Indeed, Ameren considered disposing of its waste in an offsite location owned and operated by a third party instead of constructing and operating its own utility waste landfill, and still plans to dispose of its coal ash offsite if it is unable to build the proposed utility waste landfill.”

Based on a review by the environmental groups of on-line records over the last 35 years, it appears that the PSC has neither been asked to nor ever granted a CCN for the construction of a utility waste landfill. For example, Kansas City Power and Light opened its Montrose power plant fly ash landfill in 1987. There is no corresponding CCN proceeding at the commission for this landfill that the groups have been able to locate, they said. Similarly, KCP&L began construction of its Iatan utility waste landfill in 2007 without obtaining a CCN at that time or thereafter. “This is further evidence that the regulations do not require a CCN for a utility waste landfill and that such a grant is beyond its powers,” the groups said.

“Ameren knows this as well,” they added. “Beginning approximately 2008, Ameren constructed a utility waste landfill on land adjacent to its Sioux power plant. The Commission did not grant it a CCN prior to construction. In fact, Ameren never even applied for a CCN. This isn‘t because Ameren is a scofflaw.” The company did apply for an get various local and state approvals for the project, the groups added.

Ameren says new landfill needed by 2016 as old disposal sites run out of capacity

The additional land is needed at this time so that the company can construct and operate a utility waste landfill (UWL) to replace the plant’s existing waste impoundments (commonly referred to as ash ponds), which are nearing capacity, said the Jan. 24 application. The additional land covers around 813 acres, which will be used for the proposed UWL and thereafter for other plant operations, as needed.

The original CCN for the Labadie Energy Center authorized the construction, operation and maintenance of Ameren Missouri’s largest coal-fired power plant, located in an unincorporated area of Franklin County, Mo. Labadie began operating in 1970 and today consists of four coal-fired steam units. The plant has a total generating capacity of about 2,400 MW, which is equivalent to approximately 40% of the company’s native load requirements.

Labadie produces coal combustion products (CCPs) that must be recycled or disposed of. Since the plant began operations, Ameren Missouri has stored the CCPs in ash ponds located at the existing plant site. When feasible, the company has also recycled these materials for use as an ingredient in cement, for use in road construction and for other beneficial uses.

In 2004, the company began studying various alternatives to provide storage for future CCPs once the existing ash ponds are filled to capacity, which is expected to occur in early 2016. The company retained a consulting engineer (Reitz & Jens), and evaluated 22 sites across the region for construction of a new UWL. The company also considered the option of transporting Labadie CCPs to a licensed landfill owned and operated by a third party, the application noted.

“Ultimately the Company determined that the best option which minimized cost as well as environmental and land use impacts, was construction of a Company-owned landfill on land adjacent to the current land occupied by the Labadie Energy Center,” said the application.

The new UWL will contain about 16.5 million cubic yards of airspace, and when fully constructed there will be four different cells with a combined capacity of around 15.5 million cubic yards. It is estimated that the four cells will be constructed over a period of 15-20 years (construction of one cell about every five years), with construction of the first cell scheduled to begin in early 2014. The UWL is expected to meet the company’s ash disposal needs at Labadie for about 24 years at current and estimated future disposal rates.

“It is important to obtain all approvals (including this request for a CCN) and to adhere to the proposed construction schedule because if the existing ash ponds are filled before the new facility is ready to receive CCPs, the Company will have to incur the considerable expense of disposing of the CCPs in an off-site facility owned by a third party, raising expenses for the Company and ultimately customers,” the company noted. “Moreover, transportation of the CCPs to such a facility is likely to create adverse impacts in the vicinity of the plant, such as increased truck traffic.”

Labadie is fired primarily with Powder River Basin coal, with U.S. Energy Information Administration data showing that coal suppliers last year included Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) out of the North Antelope Rochelle mine and Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) out of its Black Thunder operation.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.