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Ameren's Joppa plant

A 2007 file photo of the Joppa power plant. Ameren owns 80 percent of the plant located along the Ohio River in southern Illinois.

Ameren Corp. said its Electric Energy Inc. generating subsidiary, which owns a large coal- and natural gas-fired power plant in Joppa, Ill., is laying off 44 employees in response to weaker electricity demand and prices.

The layoffs affect 25 hourly workers and 19 managers, who will leave their jobs by mid-August, Bill Sheppard, the unit's president, said in a statement.

"This decision is one we regret having to make," he said. "But we are taking this action now because we are faced with lower demand for our electricity and very low sales prices."

The cuts, about 16 percent of the plant's workforce, are the latest retrenching by Ameren's Illinois generating subsidiary to weather the long-running downturn in power markets.

Wholesale electricity prices in southern Illinois are 15 percent below 2011 levels and almost 60 percent lower than 2008, the company said.

EEI will record a pre-tax charge of $2 million in 2012 to the cost of the layoffs, Ameren said in a regulatory filing. The job cuts are expected to reduce the plant's operating and maintenance expenses by $1 million to $2 million this year before taxes and $2.5 million to $3 million a year beginning in 2013, according to the filing.

Just last month, Ameren asked Illinois regulators for permission to delay installation of pollution controls on some of its coal-fired power plants in Illinois, and warned that it may have to mothball two of the plants if its request is denied.

That request is still pending before the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

The company also shuttered two smaller coal-fired plants last fall, eliminating 90 jobs, and has taken other steps to reduce costs.

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