Sierra Club files Missouri complaint over Ameren coal plant ash

The Sierra Club and Labadie Environmental Organization on May 23 submitted a letter to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) demanding action to require groundwater monitoring at Ameren Missouri’s Labadie, Meramec and Rush Island coal-fired power plants in the St. Louis area.

For the past 60 years, Ameren has dumped coal ash into unlined ponds at these plants, the groups said. Currently, Ameren is in various stages of seeking DNR approval to build coal ash landfills at each of these power plants, they added.

The Sierra Club has also been a protesting party during a Missouri Public Service Commission review of an ash disposal project at Labadie. The Missouri PSC on April 17 turned back that appea, saying that it does have the authority to grant approval for a coal combustion waste landfill at Labadie.

Union Electric d/b/a Ameren Missouri, is a unit of Ameren (NYSE: AEE).

“There is every reason to assume that groundwater at the Meramec, Rush Island, and Labadie coal-fired power plants is contaminated with coal ash constituents that endanger public health and the environment,” said Maxine Lipeles, Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Law Clinic at Washington University School of Law, who submitted the letter to DNR on behalf of the organizations.

The letter submitted to DNR cites coal ash leakage issues dating back to 1992 at the Labadie plant in Franklin County. In 1992, Ameren mentioned that the 154-acre, unlined ash pond at Labadie – which has been in operation since 1970 – had two leaks totaling approximately 50,000 gallons per day. In addition, DNR noted two additional leaks during its 2011 annual inspection, the groups said.

Said Ameren Missouri in a May 24 e-mail responding to an inquiry from GenerationHub about the complaint: “Although our existing permits at our Labadie Energy Center do not require groundwater monitoring, Ameren Missouri has installed monitoring wells on our plant property that reflect compliance with state and federal guidelines. Going forward, we will comply with groundwater monitoring requirements by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as part of the National Point Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for our ash ponds.”

The Sierra Club, in a separate move, on May 15 slammed the 2013 integrated resource plan (IRP) of Ameren Missouri, saying the utility has done little serious work to find ways to get its “aging” coal fleet out of the picture. The 2013 IRP update was filed ahead of a full-blown 2014 IRP, which will be filed later on with the Missouri Public Service Commission. The Sierra Club is an intevenor in the 2013 update review case and launched into the utility in its May 15 testimony.

The Ameren Missouri coal plants are Meramec (833 MW net), Sioux (972 MW net), Rush Island (1,182 MW net) and Labadie (2,374 MW net).

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.