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Missouri Supreme Court Hears Lawsuit Tied To Ameren's Proposed Coal Ash Landfill

Veronique Lacapra/St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Supreme Court is considering the case surrounding Ameren Missouri's efforts to build a coal ash landfill next door to its coal-fired power plant in Franklin County.

The suit deals with whether citizens were allowed to fully voice their concerns at various public hearings in which zoning amendments were to be discussed, but not allowing comments on Ameren or the coal ash landfill. Attorney Maxine Lipeles argued that their concerns were not fully heard.

"The public shows up for what's billed as a public hearing, and they're told at the outset, 'this is not about Ameren, you can't discuss Ameren, and if you do we're gonna interrupt you'," Lipeles told the High Court.

A circuit court ruled that citizen input was properly allowed and also upheld the zoning amendments passed by Franklin County commissioners. But the Eastern Missouri Appeals Court overturned that ruling, prompting an appeal to the State Supreme Court.

"Our plaintiffs live and own property immediately surrounding the Labadie plant and the proposed landfill site, (and) they all rely on groundwater wells for their drinking water," Lipeles said."One of the key concerns here (is that) the public was limited, was precluded from discussing their concerns specific to the site."

In briefs filed with the State Supreme Court, Franklin County argues that, at the time, Ameren did not have an application for a landfill before the county commission; therefore it could not be talked about during public testimony. Also attorney Mark Vincent told the Supreme Court that written testimony opposing any such landfill was accepted into public record.

In addition, former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price represented Ameren Missouri before his former colleagues.

"(The plaintiffs) talk about people were chilled, people were thwarted … all of that is conjecture, speculation, and argument," Price said. "There is no evidence whatsoever of prejudice, no evidence of an argument that was attempted to be made that could not be made."

Price also said that in April 2012, plaintiffs objected to a motion by Franklin County and Ameren that would have allowed for an outside judge to be appointed as "referee" to allow for additional evidence to be admitted.

The Missouri Supreme Court will rule on the case at a later date.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.