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Ameren fast-tracks closure of Rush Island coal plant

Ameren Missouri announced Tuesday that it will close its Rush Island coal plant earlier than expected.

In a court filing, Ameren announced that it will close the plant by spring 2024, a court-imposed deadline for the utility to install a flue-gas sulfurization system. Ameren had planned to close Rush Island in 2039.

 Rush Island Energy Center in Festus, Missouri.
Ameren Missouri announced it will close its Rush Island coal plant earlier than expected.

Ameren Missouri President and Chairman Marty Lyons said in a statement that the utility made its decision after weighing its legal options and considering the impact on customer costs and system reliability.

“We remain committed to reliable and affordable electric service for the benefit of our customers and communities, while reducing emissions and building on our longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship,” Lyons said.

The region’s grid operator, Midcontinent Independent System Operator, will complete a study that will help determine when the plant will close.

The expedited closure follows an August federal court ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a2017 decision that Ameren violated the federal Clean Air Act by installing equipment that raised sulfur dioxide emissions. A federal judge ruled that Ameren should have installed pollution control equipment at the plant.

Environmentalists say that the utility’s decision is good for Missouri.

“Today’s announcement by Ameren to retire Rush Island will save hundreds of lives and will also reduce asthma attacks by the thousands in this region,” said Andy Knott, central region director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “This is a significant benefit to the region to move away from coal at this one power plant.”

Last year the utilityupdated its plan to shutter its coal plants starting with the Meramec Energy Center in 2022 and ending with the Labadie Energy Center, the state’s largest coal-fired power plant, in 2042. The August ruling reversed a lower court decision ordering Ameren to install pollution controls at the Labadie plant meant to offset excess pollution from Rush Island.

Knott said the utility needs to work to further expedite closure of its other coal plants.

“In no way should Ameren consider replacing Rush Island with fracked natural gas, given skyrocketing fuel costs and the fact that methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas,” Knott said in a statement. “To that end, Ameren Missouri executives should work vigorously to retire its coal fleet before 2030 in order to mitigate the worst impacts of our changing climate.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.