Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ameren Wants More Time to Prove Labadie Air Is Clean

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ameren Wants More Time to Prove Labadie Air Is Clean

Article excerpt

LABADIE * Data from two new air monitors Ameren Missouri installed close to its largest power plant paint a rosy picture of the air quality under the giant smokestacks that dominate the skyline near here.

That conflicts with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' own modeling data, which show that the air in parts of Franklin and St. Charles County around the massive coal plant exceeds federal limits on sulfur dioxide pollution.

With federal rules threatening more pollution controls on the biggest power plant in the state, the utility is urging state regulators to let it gather more data to prove that air quality near its Labadie coal plant meets the new standard.

Ameren says data already gathered at the new monitors it installed in April call those models into doubt, and it questioned the methodology underlying DNR's modeling.

By September, the state regulator plans to submit recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency on four areas in Missouri identified as potentially exceeding sulfur dioxide limits. The department's modeling shows power plants near Kansas City and Sikeston don't push sulfur dioxide concentrations past the federal ceiling, and it expects an area in rural Iron County will meet the standards because of new controls on a nearby factory's emissions.

Ameren's Labadie plant, by far the largest Missouri source of the pollutant blamed for worsening respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, didn't pass the DNR's test.

But the state regulator proposed another option, one favored by Ameren: It could also tell EPA that the area is "unclassifiable" based on Ameren's new monitoring data and data from the 1990s.

"We believe such modeling overestimates emissions," Steve Whitworth, Ameren's environmental services director, said at a DNR hearing on the issue Thursday. "Monitoring is the most accurate method for determining air quality. ... The weight of evidence supports a designation of attainment."

The decision ultimately rests with the EPA. Requiring further cuts in sulfur dioxide pollution from Ameren's 2,400-megawatt Labadie plant could force the utility to limit how much coal it burns there or install scrubbing equipment that costs ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

It's hard to know how much scrubbers would cost at Labadie, Whitworth said during a tour of one of the new air monitors in Franklin County Wednesday. The equipment cost $600 million to install on the utility's much smaller Sioux plant in St. Charles County near Alton.

"We've got to be conscious of the impact on our customers," Whitworth said.

The Sierra Club and some nearby residents urged the department to require the utility to reduce pollution with scrubbing equipment that many plants around the country use. Sulfur dioxide exacerbates respiratory issues and can aggravate cardiovascular conditions, according to the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control. …

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