Ameren headed for January trial in Rush Island NSR case

Ameren (NYSE: AEE) is headed for a January 2015 trial in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice over a New Source Review complaint related to the Rush Island coal-fired power plant in Missouri.

Following the issuance of a notice of violation in January 2011, the Justice Dept. on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint against Ameren Missouri in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The EPA’s complaint, as amended in October of this year, alleges that in performing projects at Rush Island in 2007 and 2010, Ameren Missouri violated provisions of the Clean Air Act and Missouri law.

In January 2012, the district court granted, in part, Ameren Missouri’s motion to dismiss various aspects of the EPA’s penalty claims, Ameren noted in its Nov. 8 Form 10-Q report. The EPA’s claims for unspecified injunctive relief remain. Trial in this matter is currently scheduled for January 2015.

“Ameren Missouri believes its defenses are meritorious and will defend itself vigorously,” the Form 10-Q added. “However, there can be no assurances that it will be successful in its efforts.”

EPA claims that illegal project allows for high plant usage, emissions

Said EPA’s Oct. 30 amended complaint about the ostensibly illegal maintenance project: “At Rush Island Units 1 and 2, the newly available hours of operation enabled by the project would be expected to be used to generate electricity. Rush Island Units 1 and 2 are both baseload coal-fired electric generating units that operate nearly continuously when available to supply the electricity needed to meet minimum levels of customer demand. These additional hours of operation translate into increased amounts of coal burned in the unit, and more annual pollution emitted from the unit’s smokestack into the atmosphere.”

EPA added: “In addition to improving the availability of a coal-fired generating unit, replacing deteriorated components with new, improved components can also increase the capacity of the boiler to pass steam through the components to the turbines at greater volumes and/or at higher temperatures. This can result in an increase in the amount of coal burned, and pollution emitted, during each hour of the unit’s operation. Even if a project does not increase the amount of coal burned per hour, an improved component can increase the capacity and/or efficiency of the unit, which for a coal-fired generating unit like Rush Island Units 1 and 2, can make the unit more cost-effective and thus more economical to operate than other units. This can lead the utility to operate that improved unit during more hours of operation and/or at higher levels of operation, which in turn can lead to increases in coal burned at the unit and SO2 and other pollutants emitted from the unit’s smokestack on an annual basis.”

EPA said Ameren Missouri did not comply with the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) requirements in the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Missouri state implementation plan (SIP) with respect to the major modifications and subsequent operations at Rush Island Unit 1. Among other things, EPA said the utility:

  • undertook major modifications without first obtaining a PSD permit for the construction and operation of the modified unit;
  • undertook major modifications without undergoing a best available control technology (BACT) determination in connection with the major modifications;
  • undertook major changes without installing BACT for control of SO2 emissions;
  • failed to operate BACT for control of SO2 emissions under a BACT determination;
  • failed to operate in compliance with BACT emission limits, including limits that are no less stringent than applicable standards under Section 111 of the CAA; and
  • operated the plant after an unpermitted major modification, despite the express prohibition in the Missouri SIP against operating an unlawfully modified source.

Rush Island is located 40 miles south of downtown St. Louis, in Jefferson County, Mo., on the western bank of the Mississippi River. It has two units with a net capability of 1,182 MW.

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.