© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Federal judge says Ameren's upgrades to Rush Island Power Plant violated Clean Air Act rules

An image of the Rush Island Power Plant in an article about its use of the Powder River Basin coal.
Rush Island Energy Center, Ameren Corp.

A U.S. district court judge has ruled that Ameren Missouri violated the Clean Air Act when it made upgrades to its Rush Island Power Plant in Festus in the late 2000's. 

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against Ameren, alleging that the utility illegally installed boiler equipment that raised emissions of sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that can cause asthma and worsen respiratory conditions. On Monday, Judge Rodney Sippel ruled in favor of the EPA, and wrote that Ameren should have applied for special permits and installed pollution control equipment when plant made the upgrades.

In a statement, Ameren spokesperson Brad Brown expressed disappointment in the judge's ruling.

"In bringing this enforcement action, the Obama Administration argued for legal interpretations and rulings that contradict with the plain language of Missouri's regulations, positions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency outside this litigation and other legal proceedings," Brown wrote. 

Meanwhile, local environmentalists see the decision as a step forward in combating air pollution in Missouri. The Rush Island Power Plant is located in Jefferson County, an area that exceeds federal air quality standards for sulfur dioxide.  

"This is the latest example of Ameren thumbing its nose at public health safeguards and prioritizing profit over human life," said Andy Knott, a clean energy activist for the Sierra Club's Missouri chapter.  

The judge will set a meeting to determine what actions Ameren should take to remedy the violations. Area activists believe that Ameren should install scrubbers, devices to remove sulfur dioxide emissions, at its coal-fired plants. 

"The solution would be for Ameren to install a scrubber to comply with the Clean Air Act and reduce those emissions," Knott said. 

In Missouri, the company has only installed scrubbers at its Sioux Power Plant in West Alton, which cost about $600 million. 

Follow Eli on Twitter @StoriesByEli.

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