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Mo. among top states in airborne mercury pollution

Ameren’s 2,400-megawatt plant near Labadie, Mo., is the state’s largest coal-fired power plant.
(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)
Ameren’s 2,400-megawatt plant near Labadie, Mo., is the state’s largest coal-fired power plant.

A new report released today by Environment Missouri shows power plants in the state produce more airborne mercury than 46 other states.

The report, which uses data from the Environmental Protection Association's toxic inventory release, found that of the nearly 4,000 pounds of mercury that Missouri's 17 coal-fired power plants released in 2010, more than 70 percent came from four plants owned by Ameren Missouri.

One of them - the Labadie Energy Center in Franklin Co. - is the second-largest emitter of mercury in the country.

All 17 of the plants are in compliance with current federal pollution standards, said Environment Missouri's Ted Mathys.

"However, the current mercury standard is incredibly weak, and because Missouri does not have stronger restrictions on mercury than the federal government, until we get a new strong mercury standard from the EPA, the Missouri plants are going to continue to comply with current federal standards," Mathys said.

The new standards, which are due to take effect on Dec. 16, require coal-fired plans to keep 91 percent of the mercury in coal from being released. Several bills in Congress would keep the EPA from releasing final standards, or push back the deadline for compliance.

In a statement, Ameren Missouri said it could not provide a cost estimate for compliance with the new standards.

"For our Missouri energy centers, we recently completed a two scrubber installation at our Portage Des Sioux site.  We have been testing various control options over the past several months and will continue to do so over the next year or two to determine how we will achieve the 90% + mercury removal.  But we are confident that we will be able to meet the new standards."


Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.