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U.S. accuses Ameren of failing to comply with pollution order at Rush Island

U.S. accuses Ameren of failing to comply with pollution order at Rush Island

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Rush Island Energy Center

The coal-fired Rush Island Energy Center electricity generation plant owned by Ameren Missouri in Jefferson County.

Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — The Department of Justice has accused Ameren of failing to comply with its September order to curb air pollution from the power utility’s coal-fired Rush Island Energy Center in Jefferson County, according to court records filed last week.

The Feb. 5 filing says that Ameren failed to provide a complete permit application for major modifications to the facility that would add pollution controls called scrubbers. Beyond omitting required information in its application, the St. Louis-based energy company left out a corresponding $5,000 fee, and only submitted a lesser $250 fee applicable for separate, minor permits, according to U.S. attorneys.

Additionally, the utility has “inexplicably paused” engineering and preparatory work that it had previously said was necessary to comply with the court order, the filing says.

The infractions outlined in the document include claims that Ameren gave an “inaccurate representation” of court orders and stays to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, tasked with issuing relevant permits.

“Two months after this Court specifically rejected Ameren’s request to stay such pre-construction activities, Ameren wrongly told MDNR that the Court in fact had stayed all engineering efforts,” the filing said.

Ameren has appealed the court’s September remedy that called for the utility to address Rush Island’s violation of the Clean Air Act by equipping the plant with scrubber technology — a move that could cost it hundreds of millions of dollars, or even billions once paired with other court-ordered actions, according to the company. The prospect of those investments has raised questions from outsiders about the future viability of plants like Rush Island, and whether its retirement date, currently set for the 2040s, could accelerate dramatically.

Despite Ameren’s appeal, the new filing from the Department of Justice states that the court “has jurisdiction to address these issues” while the challenge is pending.

Ameren said it is “working on a response brief, which will be filed with the court,” according to a company spokesperson.

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