Ameren Missouri Escapes Paying Fully for its Pollution


Edward Smith, 

St. Louis, MO -- Ameren Missouri’s appeal of a lower court ruling that required the utility to add pollution controls to its Rush Island and Labadie coal plants was partially successful. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit confirmed that Ameren violated the Clean Air Act, but overturned a lower court order that would have required Ameren to fully remedy the effects of its unlawful pollution. District Court Judge Sippel, who found that Ameren violated the Clean Air Act in 2017, ordered that Ameren must add pollution controls to its Labadie and Rush Island coal plants in his 2019 remedy order. The 8th Circuit’s decision means that Ameren’s Rush Island coal plant will be retrofitted with new pollution controls while the Labadie coal plant will remain one of the largest in the country without them. 

In 2020, Ameren’s Labadie coal plant was the second largest sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitter in the nation while Rush Island was the sixth largest emitter of the pollutant. Dr. Joel Schwartz, a prominent scientist at Harvard’s School of Public Health and a key expert witness for the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the case, estimated that between 2007 and 2016, the violating emissions from Rush Island alone contributed to as many as 800 premature deaths. 

Judge Sippel’s 2019 order was pointed, stating in part that: 

Ameren’s arguments that Rush Island’s excess pollution was not harmful are not convincing...Ameren’s reliance on scientific uncertainty is misguided and its reliance on fringe toxicological evidence is unpersuasive...When Ameren decided to make major modifications to expand Rush Island’s capacity, Ameren refused to play by the rules Congress set.

This case began in 2011 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), represented by the DOJ, sued Ameren for violating the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) requirements at the Rush Island plant. Ameren modified the plant without obtaining a permit and significantly increased emissions. The EPA won the liability phase of the case in January 2017 when a judge found that Ameren had indeed violated the NSR requirement. Sierra Club intervened in February 2017 in order to ensure our interests were represented as the trial entered the remedy phase under President Trump. 

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling can be found here

Statement from Andy Knott, Interim Central Region Director for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign:

“It is not surprising that Ameren chose to violate the Clean Air Act. Ameren CEO Warner Baxter knows his unscrubbed coal plants are releasing large amounts of air pollution. Ameren’s excessive pollution is sending people to the doctor for respiratory problems like asthma, causing them to miss work or school, and causing premature deaths. It is disappointing Ameren will not have to make up for the excessive pollution that spewed from its Rush Island coal plant by adding pollution controls to its Labadie coal plant as well. Thankfully there will be some justice in this case. Warner Baxter could choose to do the right thing for the common good and accelerate the closure of the Labadie coal plant considering it is the largest coal plant in the United States that lacks modern pollution controls.” 

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