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As a lifelong South St. Louis County resident, I love spending time in the amazing beauty of Bee Tree County Park, hiking the trails and admiring the majestic views of the Mississippi River.

Bee Tree Park deeply influenced me to become a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Ore., for the past 21 years. During this time, I never forgot Bee Tree. I always visit it when I spend time in St. Louis.

Unfortunately, Bee Tree suffers from terrible air quality with its location right next to the Meramec Ameren Coal Plant. It alarms me that my family and I live just a few miles from this outdated coal plant.

The Meramec Coal Plant is our region’s largest emitter of sulfur dioxide, a leading contributor to asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Meramec Plant lacks pollution controls for sulfur dioxide.

The June 2012 Environmental Integrity Project report showed approximately 1,000 asthma attacks and 57 to 100 premature deaths occur each year because of Meramec plant.

This report stated Meramec plant’s contribution to premature deaths cost Missourians more than the estimated retail value of the electricity they generate. Ameren admits they don't need this plant.

In fact, greater energy efficiency could easily prompt it to close this 59-year-old coal plant within a few years. So, why are we waiting? For our health and wallet, NOW is the time to pull the plug on the Meramec Power Plant.

Brian Ettling

South County