Ameren seeks extension to comply with emissions standards, may close coal-fired power plants

Citing depressed power prices and the high cost of environmental controls, as well as other factors, Ameren Energy Resources Co. LLC (AER), filed a petition with the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) seeking flexibility in meeting certain emissions standards established by the Illinois Multi-Pollutant Standards (MPS).

AER, the holding company for the merchant generation business of Ameren Corp. (NYSE: AEE), is seeking additional time to meet the sulfur dioxide (SO2) limits applicable to its fleet, extending the compliance dates to Dec. 31, 2020.

AER said it has spent more than $1 billion on pollution control equipment to comply with the existing MPS SO2 limits until 2015, but the company said those limits will be significantly reduced on Jan. 1, 2015.

"Current market prices simply do not allow further investment in pollution control equipment at this time," said Steven R. Sullivan, president and CEO of AER.

In February, AER announced the deceleration of its planned scrubber project at its Newton Energy Center, which would have satisfied the 2015 MPS SO2 standards. Sullivan said if the request is not granted, AER may shut down two of three remaining unscrubbed coal-fired power plants on Jan.1, 2015. Those plants are Edwards, Joppa, and/or Newton.

AER said approval of the request by the IPCB will allow additional time for economic recovery and related power price improvements necessary to support scrubber installations and other pollution controls at some of AER's energy centers. Under AER's proposed compliance plan, the company expects its SO2 emissions during the period covered by the variance would not increase.

AER is also working closely with the PJM Regional Transmission Operator (PJM RTO) and the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) to remove barriers preventing downstate Illinois generators from moving power to the northern part of the state where prices are higher.

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