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Health, Science, Environment

Missouri, Illinois rank among 10 worst carbon dioxide emitters

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2011 - WASHINGTON - Missouri and Illinois ranked among "the 10 worst states for carbon dioxide pollution" from coal-fired power plants last year, a new report says. And the CO2 emissions from both states increased between 2000 and 2010.

The study also says that the levels of sulfur-dioxide emissions in Missouri slightly increased from 2000 to 2010, although those emissions -- which are related to acid rain -- had declined by about a third over the previous decade, after clean-air regulations were enacted to require "scrubbers" and other technology to remove the chemical.

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project -- an environmental interest group -- listed Ameren's Labadie power station in Franklin County as the nation's seventh-highest producer of carbon dioxide. The plant emitted nearly 19 million tons of CO2 last year, nearly half the combined emissions of the six states of New England. The highest emitting plant in Illinois was the Baldwin plant in Randolph County, which emitted slightly less than 14 million tons of CO2.

"Reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Missouri and nationwide is not going to happen without political pressure," said the EIP's director, Eric Schaeffer. He told the Beacon on Friday that, based on the emissions numbers, "Missouri's dependence on coal-based power is rather high. As coal gets more expensive, that will catch up with the state."

In response, an Ameren Missouri official said the company is moving aggressively to diversify its energy sources and has worked to reduce emissions from its power plants.

"While Ameren Missouri continues to work hard to reduce emissions from its power plants and meet customer demand in a cost effective manner, we recognize the need to reduce our overall dependence upon coal as a generating resource," said Mark Birk,  vice president of power operations for Ameren Missouri.

In a statement to the Beacon, Birk said the company is "working on strategies to help us diversify our generation mix by investing in renewable resources such as the Maryland Heights Renewable Energy Center (Landfill Gas Plant) and capacity/efficiency improvements at our hydro plants."

Birk said Ameren Missouri now imports wind energy from Iowa and has "installed small-scale solar to help us evaluate various solar technologies and educate our customers." Another key to Ameren Missouri's diversification strategy is the Callaway Early Site Permit, which he said "will maintain the option to develop future nuclear energy for Missouri."

Birk added: "These strategies coupled with customer energy efficiency measures and continued reductions in SO2 [sulfur dioxide] and NOx[nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide] from our fossil plants will allow Ameren Missouri to meet future energy demands in the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner."

According to the report, carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants increased by 5.56 percent in 2010 over the previous year -- representing the largest annual increase in such emissions since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began tracking them in 1995.

In Missouri, which ranked 10th among states in emissions, power plants emitted 83.28 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, an increase from the 75.77 million tons produced in 2009.

Meanwhile, Illinois power emissions were 107 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, up from 102.7 million tons the previous years. The state's national ranking was sixth.

While coal-fired plants in some states have reduced their carbon dioxide emissions over the last decade, Schaeffer told the Beacon that Missouri's emissions had increased from 73.9 million in 2000 to last year's 83.28 million tons. There was a similar increase in Illinois, from 94.6 million tons in 2000 to last year's 107 million tons.

The statistics from the report are based on the EPA's "clean air markets" database. Even though it has been shown that carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere is a major factor in global climate change, Congress is debating efforts to weaken the EPA's ability to control CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The latest report of rising emissions from the Labadie power station -- whose carbon dioxide emissions rose from 17.4 million tons in 2009 to 18.996 million tons last year -- could influence the current debate over Ameren's proposal to build a coal-ash landfill across from the Labadie power plant and along the Missouri River's flood plain.

Last week, Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said he didn't know how long it would take to decide whether to enact a measure to legalize landfills like the one Ameren Missouri wants to build for coal ash.

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