Ameren Missouri | St. Louis Public Radio

Ameren Missouri

An active coal-ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has changed its regulations to give states more authority over how utilities should dispose and monitor pollution from toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants. Environmental advocates in Missouri and Illinois warn that the newly revised rule will not do enough to protect water quality and human health.

The amendments, approved Tuesday by acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, lowered standards for several chemicals, such as lead, that are found in coal-ash waste. It also extends the deadline for utilities to close its coal-ash ponds and allows state officials to oversee and stop groundwater monitoring at coal-ash waste sites.

An active coal-ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Just before former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned, he signed a bill to regulate coal-ash waste, a toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants.

Coal ash, also known as coal combustion residuals, contains a number of heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, that are known to cause cancer. While some of the waste does become recycled, Ameren Missouri and other utilities dispose coal ash into landfills and ponds.

Ameren's Callaway nuclear power plant produces about 19 percent of the electricity the company generates in Missouri. It is the only nuclear energy facility in the state.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Ameren Missouri has proposed expanding its energy-efficiency programs to ease the company’s impact on the environment.

In a proposal to the Missouri Public Service Commission on Tuesday, the utility sought approval to invest $550 million in 26 programs that would help customers save energy.

The programs would help people recycle old, inefficient appliances; educate those in low-income communities on how to lower energy use; and promote smart thermostats to reduce electricity costs during the high energy consumption that happens in the summer.

A wind turbine.
Provided by Ameren Missouri

Ameren Missouri on Monday announced plans to build a wind farm in northeast Missouri that could provide electricity to 120,000 homes. 

The utility has contracted renewable energy company Terra-Gen LLC to construct 175 wind turbines on multiple properties in Adair and Schuyler counties. The wind farm would help Ameren Missouri reach its goal to cut its 2005 carbon emissions levels by 80 percent by 2050.

The utility also must comply with the state's renewable energy standard, which requires state utilities to generate 15 percent of their portfolios from renewable sources by 2021. Ameren Missouri currently generates 5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The Missouri Sierra Club and its supporters gathered in front of Ameren Missouri's headquarters in St. Louis in April 2018 to protest against proposed regulations that could weaken oversight of coal ash waste.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

As environmentalists voiced concerns in Washington about possible changes to the Environmental Protection Agency's rules on disposing coal ash waste, some in Missouri chose to express their opposition by staging a protest at a major utility corporation's doorstep. 

The Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club gathered a small band of supporters Tuesday at Ameren Missouri's headquarters in St. Louis. They held large signs that showed images of Ameren's four power plants in Missouri and listed details about the toxic heavy metals that coal ash contains, such as arsenic.

Ameren Missouri announced recently that it plans to close all of its coal ash ponds by 2022. However, activists want the regulators to address the contamination the ponds have already caused and are unhappy that Ameren has chosen to close its ponds by leaving them in place.

An active coal-ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmentalists plan to raise concerns at a public hearing tonight about water-quality issues caused by Ameren Missouri's Rush Island Energy Center in Festus. 

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson County is one step closer to attaining the federal clean air standard for sulfur dioxide, a noxious gas that can cause asthma and respiratory illness.

The Missouri Air Conservation Commission on Thursday approved the state's recommendation to the Environmental Protection Agency that the county's sulfur dioxide levels are within the federal limit of 75 parts per billion.

A wind turbine.
Provided by Ameren Missouri

In a couple of years, Missouri cities and corporations could be receiving more electricity from wind power as Ameren Missouri ramps up its wind power facilities. 

Ameren, energy production
Daniel X. O'Neill | Flickr

A conversation has been sparked in Missouri about how electricity will be generated, stored and consumed in the future.

The Missouri Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities, is looking for input on what are known as “distributed energy resources” and will hold a workshop later this month in Jefferson City. The Commission’s Staff Director Natelle Dietrich admits the term is a bit of a catch-all.

A wind turbine.
Provided by Ameren Missouri

Missouri's largest utility company announced plans today that could dramatically reduce its impact on the environment. 

Ameren Missouri released multiple goals it hopes to achieve, which include adding 700 megawatts of wind power generation by 2020, along with 100 megawatts of solar power by 2027. Company leaders are speaking to developers about a potential wind farm project and hope to provide more details by the end of this year.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency upgrade Jefferson County's air quality status, now that levels of sulfur dioxide have dropped below the federal limit. 

In 2013, the EPA designated Jefferson County as "nonattainment," or not meeting the federal standard for sulfur dioxide, a gas that produces toxic odors and causes respiratory problems. A monitor near the Doe Run lead smelter in Herculaneum detected sulfur dioxide levels above 200 parts per billion, said Kyra Moore, director of the state's air quality control program. After the smelter closed in 2013, levels have dropped well below the 75 parts per billion limit. 

Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

Updated May 25 with the day's actions — The special legislative session called by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is getting closer to the finish line.

A Missouri Senate committee voted 10-1 Thursday to pass a bill designed to reopen an aluminum smelting plant in southeastern Missouri that was operated by Noranda. They made no additions to the bill, which goes before the full Senate on Friday.

The Bagnell Dam at Lake of the Ozarks
Ameren Missouri

The dam that created Lake of the Ozarks is getting its first major upgrade in more than three decades. 

Ameren Missouri this week began demolishing the old, weathered concrete at the Bagnell Dam, home to the Osage Energy Center, the largest generator of hydroelectric power in the state. The $52 million project involves removing and adding more than 66 million pounds of concrete, and drilling holes to drain water that leaks under the dam.

The Sierra Club's Andy Knott speaks at a rally in 2013 in front of a 15-foot tall inflatable inhaler in Keiner Plaza
File Photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio & The Beacon

Story updated Feb. 17 with comment from Ameren Missouri — A federal judge has approved the Sierra Club's request to intervene in a Clean Air Act lawsuit between Ameren Missouri and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Last month, Chief Judge Rodney Sippel ruled in U.S. District Court that Ameren violated the Clean Air Act when it installed boiler equipment at the Rush Island Power Plant in Festus in the late 2000s without acquiring special permits. The new equipment caused the plant to emit more sulfur dioxide emissions, which at high levels can cause asthma and exacerbate respiratory conditions.

Before Sippel held the first meeting Thursday to determine how Ameren should reduce air pollution, the Sierra Club's lawyers filed a motion to intervene, out of concern that the Trump administration could put the case in jeopardy.

An image of the Rush Island Power Plant in an article about its use of the Powder River Basin coal.
Rush Island Energy Center, Ameren Corp.

A U.S. district court judge has ruled that Ameren Missouri violated the Clean Air Act when it made upgrades to its Rush Island Power Plant in Festus in the late 2000's. 

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against Ameren, alleging that the utility illegally installed boiler equipment that raised emissions of sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that can cause asthma and worsen respiratory conditions. On Monday, Judge Rodney Sippel ruled in favor of the EPA, and wrote that Ameren should have applied for special permits and installed pollution control equipment when plant made the upgrades.

Ameren Missouri employees work in the utility's emergency operations center Saturday, January 14, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis region went into high alert Thursday ahead of forecasted ice storms.

Many schools and government offices were closed Friday, and grocery stores shut down in the early evening hours.

But in the end, the ice storm was less dangerous and disruptive than expected.

A Nissan Leaf getting charged up in a parking lot.
Nissan

Motorists in Missouri will soon see new signs pointing to alternative fuel sources along interstate highways. The signage is part of a recently announced Federal Highway Administration effort to create 85,000 miles of alternative fuel corridors across the country.

The signs aim to ease "range anxiety," or motorists' worry that they will run out of fuel, for those who drive cars that run on electricity, propane, natural gas and hydrogen. The initiative could encourage such motorists to travel further.

Spporting the use of low-emission vehicles could help the nation reach its goal of cutting at least 80 percent of greenhouse gases by 2050, the FHA officials say.

An image of the Rush Island Power Plant in an article about its use of the Powder River Basin coal.
Rush Island Energy Center, Ameren Corp.

Updated Aug. 22 with details from the trial — An Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit alleging that Ameren Missouri violated the Clean Air Act goes to trial today in U.S. District Court.

The EPA filed suit against the utility five years ago. Officials with the federal agency allege that, in 2007 and 2010, Ameren illegally installed boiler equipment at two units of its Rush Island Power Plant in Jefferson County without required permits. Under the Clean Air Act, such modifications are considered new sources of air pollution, which are subject to stricter emissions limits.

A Nissan Leaf getting charged up in a parking lot.
Nissan

Motorists driving Nissan Leafs or Chevy Volts could travel farther on Interstate 70 next year.

Ameren Missouri filed a proposal to the Missouri Public Service Commission this week to build six "charging islands" on the highway. 

The company is trying to meet a need for power stations linked to a growing demand for electric vehicles, now that the technology has become more affordable. Additional stations would allow cars to travel longer distances, said Ameren official Mark Nealon, who is overseeing the project.

Provided by Bi-State Development Agency

Updated Friday, July 22 at 5:07p.m. with statement from Ameren Missouri — Ameren Missouri and the Sierra Club reached a $2 million settlement Thursday in U.S. District Court over the utility company's alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

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