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Ameren Missouri and Sierra Club reach $2 million settlement over air quality lawsuit

Provided by Bi-State Development Agency
Ameren is required to pay at least $1 million for clean public transit in the St. Louis area under the terms of the settlement.

Updated Friday, July 22 at 5:07p.m. with statement from Ameren Missouri — Ameren Missouri and the Sierra Club reached a $2 million settlement Thursday in U.S. District Court over the utility company's alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

In 2014, the Sierra Club sued Ameren for exceeding federal air quality standards at its coal-fired Meramec, Labadie and Rush Island power plants. In a surprise move that year, Ameren announced plans to retire the Meramec plant by 2022. That decision, in part, led the Sierra Club to agree to a settlement, which requires Ameren to put at least $1 million into providing electric buses and charging stations for public transit in the St. Louis area. 

The diesel engines that power many MetroBus vehicles are a significant contributor of air pollution, releasing noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter into the atmosphere. Andy Knott, who campaigns for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal imitative in Missouri, said that making changes to public transit was one of a few items Ameren would agree to comply with for the settlement.

The rest of the settlement, which must be paid out over the next two years, likely will go to community solar projects. 

While the deal is a positive step forward, Knott believes that Ameren has much more work ahead. The Sierra Club wants the company to commit to a goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050. 

"71 percent of the electricity they generate still comes from coal," Knott said. "We still have problems with sulfur dioxide pollution, in particular from the Labadie plant. They still have a long way to go to get to a clean energy future."

Ameren Missouri wrote in an emailed statement that it "is pleased with the outcome of the settlement agreement. The terms of the agreement are in complete alignment with our business strategies, commitment to being a good steward of the environment and transition to cleaner energy in the most affordable way for our customers."

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.