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Ameren Wants More Time To Meet New EPA Carbon Emission Goal

Ameren Missouri's largest coal-fired power plant in Labadie, Missouri.
File photo | Veronique LaCapra I St. Louis Public Radio
Ameren’s 2,400-megawatt plant near Labadie, Missouri, is the state’s largest coal-fired power plant. (Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

Ameren is asking for more time and pitching an alternative plan to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cut power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The EPA's Clean Power Plan would require states to meet incremental goals starting in 2020, to measure progress toward the final target reduction. 

But in a white paper released Wednesday, Ameren said by expecting states "to comply with such stringent targets on such short notice," that plan would impose "staggering costs" of some $4 billion on customers while "needlessly jeopardizing the supply of electricity that our customers use." 

Instead, the company is channeling its most recent Integrated Resource Plan, pushing a greenhouse gas goals strategy that would eliminate the incremental goals with more flexibility for states in determining how to arrive at the 2030 goal. 

Joe Power, Ameren's vice president of federal legislative and regulatory affairs, said states would be held to the plans they create and would have to submit interim progress reports to the EPA.

"So the states would set the glide path, that would be included in their filing with the EPA, it would then be enforceable target reductions that have to be hit but they would be mindful of cost and reliability," Power said.

Perhaps most significantly, Ameren's plan would give states the ability to go past the 2030 deadline. In Ameren's case, the company said it would meet the goal in 2035. Power said the company would do that by: retiring about one-third of its coal-fired fleet, adding 500 megawatts of renewaable energy, extending the license of the Callaway Nuclear Energy Center, continuing energy efficiency programs, and building a new natural gas facility.

"The EPA should allow states that put in plans that show they would be hitting the 2030 targets within a reasonable time frame around that 2030 date - in our case 2035 - the EPA should be flexible and allow that to do that," he said.

But John Hickey, director of the Sierra Club's Missouri chapter, said Missouri - and Ameren - should have no problems complying with the EPA's Clean Power Plan. He points to plans to retire the coal-fired Meramec Energy Center in 2022.

"These existing retirements that have already been announced get us about half way to compliance all by themselves, so for Ameren to say they can’t make it in 15 years to this target, and already starting today we’ve already made it half way just based on existing retirements…that just doesn’t pass the laugh test," Hickey said.

But Power said the EPA's cost-ineffective plan would require Ameren to speed up that retirement to 2019 and, to replace its energy output, accelerate the construction of a new gas-fired, combined-cycle generation facility by 14 years. Those construction costs as well as not utilizing its coal-fired plants for the remainder of its useful life could total $4 billion, Power said, and put a strain on the electricity grid.

Hickey, though, said Ameren's coal-fired plants should have already been retired. Additionally, he said there's no need to replace coal-fired plants with natural gas plants, calling it a "waste of rate payer money."

"We believe that Missouri and Ameren can comply with the power plan by using energy efficiency and by ramping up solar and wind...and we can retire the dirtiest coal plants," he said. "Ameren is under-invested in clean energy sources."

Likewise, Ed Smith, safe energy director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said he wants Ameren to focus more on renewable energy sources. He also said he doesn't buy that Ameren needs more time.

"Ameren very easily could be on its way to meeting the EPA's carbon dioxide goal if it didn't work to undercut Missouri's renewable energy standard in the state legislature and put together energy efficiency policies that were consistent," he said. "Ameren has been less than willing to be fully engaged in those areas."

In its white paper, Ameren also questions the EPA's authority to impose parts of its plan, which Smith dismisses as "dubious." 

The EPA will make final rules in June.