Missouri PSC holds extra hearing on Labadie coal ash landfill

The Sierra Club seems to think what it calls an “emergency” second hearing by the Missouri Public Service Commission on a new coal ash landfill for Ameren Missouri’s Labadie coal plant is something of a minor victory.

The coal ash landfill would be in the Missouri River floodplain in Franklin County. “This hearing comes after an initial June 24th hearing on the proposed landfill where more than 200 citizens came from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area to voice their concerns about dumping toxic coal ash waste near Missouri’s waterway,” the club said in a July 10 statement. “So many citizens were slated to speak that the PSC scheduled tonight’s second hearing to give all citizens registered at the June 24th hearing a chance to speak.”

Aside from the proposed coal ash landfill at Labadie, Ameren has similar proposals to build coal ash landfills at the Meramec coal-fired power plant in South St. Louis County and the Rush Island coal-fired power plant in Jefferson County, the club noted.

Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign organizer Sara Edgar said: “Missourians came from near and far a few weeks ago to not only speak out in opposition to Ameren’s coal ash waste landfill proposals, but to oppose Ameren’s dependence on coal in general. Ameren has a history of coal ash disposal contamination issues in Missouri and Illinois. Now, everyday citizens are stepping up to protect their air and water from Ameren’s coal burning and coal ash dumping. We cannot stay hooked on coal anymore in Missouri. There is a better way to power Missouri, and that is through investing in clean energy and implementing strong energy efficiency standards.”

Said the Missouri PSC in a July 8 statement announcing the July 10 hearing: “In January, Ameren Missouri filed an application with the Missouri Public Service Commission seeking a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Commission to expand the boundaries of its Labadie Energy Center to permit the construction and operation of a utility waste landfill.  Ameren Missouri has asked the Commission to approve its application by December 31, 2013, to allow it to begin construction of the landfill in 2014. The Commission held a local public hearing in this case on June 25, 2013 in Union. Attendance at the hearing was heavy and many interested persons were unable to testify. Therefore, the Commission is scheduling a second local public hearing on July 10 in Washington to give more people an opportunity to testify.”

PSC has already had to rule it has the power to handle this case

The Missouri PSC told two environmental groups April 17 that it does have the authority to grant approval for a coal combustion waste landfill at Labadie.

On Jan. 24, Union Electric d/b/a Ameren Missouri applied for a certificate of convenience and necessity from the commission to expand the boundaries of its Labadie Energy Center to permit the construction and operation of a utility waste landfill. The proposed landfill would be used to store coal combustion products, sometimes referred to as coal ash.

On March 26, Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO) and the Sierra Club filed a motion asking the commission to dismiss Ameren Missouri’s application, arguing that the commission lacks jurisdiction over a waste landfill.

“The expansion of the amount of real estate included within the boundaries of the Labadie Energy Center for the stated purpose of constructing a utility waste landfill is in connection with or to facilitate the generation of electricity and thus falls within the statute’s definition of electric plant,” the commission ruled on April 17. “Obviously, Ameren Missouri cannot generate electricity without planning for the safe disposal of the resulting waste products. The Commission concludes that it does have statutory jurisdiction to consider Ameren Missouri’s application for a certificate of convenience and necessity to expand the boundaries of the Labadie Energy Center. The motion to dismiss will be denied.”

The new land area is needed at this time so that Ameren Missouri can construct and operate a utility waste landfill (UWL) to replace the plant’s existing waste impoundments, which are nearing capacity, said the Jan. 24 application. Labadie began operating in 1970, consists of four coal-fired steam units and has a total capacity of about 2,400 MW.

In 2004, the company began studying various alternatives to provide storage for future coal combustion waste once the existing ash ponds are filled to capacity, which is expected to occur in early 2016. 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.

Labadie burns mostly Powder River Basin coal. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows 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, both located in Wyoming.

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.