A federal court on July 21 approved a settlement agreementbetween Ameren Missouri and the Sierra Club that closes a two-year litigationprocess over alleged emissions violations at three of Ameren's coal plants.
Ameren Missouri, a subsidiary of , would provide $2 millionin funding for environmentally beneficial projects such as installing electricvehicle charging stations for public use, solar panels at commercial propertiesor converting diesel or gas powered vehicles to cleaner fuels, according to thesettlement agreementthat the parties signed on May 26.
The settlement agreement was reviewed by the U.S. DistrictCourt for the Eastern District of Missouri, which on July 21 granted theparties' motion to the dismiss the case, according to a court's latestorder. Thesettlement agreement was signed by UnionElectric Co., the legal name of Ameren Missouri.
Under the agreement, the Sierra Club can suggest projects toreceive the funds, but Ameren Missouri will make the final project selectionsand funding distribution decisions, the agreement stated. Half of the funds wouldbe dedicated to school and public transit bus electrification projects,including building electric charging stations.
"Reducing air pollution from diesel buses will improvepublic health and is a positive step forward for the city of St. Louis,"Andy Knott, a senior campaigner for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal initiative,said in a statement. The environmental group recommended that Ameren engagewith stakeholders to learn the benefits of bus electrification and communitysolar development and "embrace" clean energy by stepping upinvestments in wind, solar and energy efficiency.
The Sierra Club, in its complaint against Ameren, alleged opacity violationsbetween 2009 and 2013 at Ameren's 2,372-MW Labadie, 831-MW Meramec and 1,180-MW coal plants ineastern Missouri, according to the environmental group's March 2014 firstamended complaint.
The Sierra Club's analysis of Ameren's reports to theMissouri Department of Natural Resources showed that units across the threeplants had a total of 7,880 periods of excess opacity, according to the firstamended complaint that the Sierra Club filed in March 2014. The U.S. EPA andthe Missouri DNR regulate opacity, a measure of visible pollution from a powerplant stack, by setting limits on a contributing pollutant called particulatematter, more commonly known as dust.
The settlement agreement does not represent an"admission of liability" but "avoids the burden and expense ofprotracted litigation," the parties said in the agreement. Ameren deniedthe allegations of particulate matter emissions across the three plants causingharm by saying that it emits up to the levels that the EPA and the Missouri DNRhave allowed, according to a May 2014 motion.
The parties reached a settlement after Ameren, in its2014 integrated resourceplan, agreed to retire a third of its aging coal fleet. Part of theimpetus for the retirements is because the Missouri DNR on March 29, 2016,proposed regulations to strengthen its opacity standards, and the U.S. EPAissued its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, that requires existingcoal and oil units to have met stringent monitoring and reduction requirementsfor metals, particulate matter and acid gases by this year.
As part of its IRP, Ameren this year converted two of itscoal units at the Meramec station to burn natural gas and agreed to retire thetwo remaining units, totaling about 648 MW, by 2022. It would also retire the970-MW Sioux Energy Centerby 2033. In 2014, the company spent $185 million to upgrade the particulatematter controls at its Labadie Energy Center to meet the EPA's MATS rule.