Missouri justices send coal ash case back to circuit court

Ameren Missouri coal ash landfill Labadie coal-fired power plant lawsuit court ruling

JIM SALTER
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Plans are on hold for a coal ash landfill next to an Ameren Corp. (NYSE: AEE) power plant in eastern Missouri following a ruling by the state Supreme Court.

The court on Tuesday reversed a lower court ruling that allowed Ameren to proceed with plans for a landfill for waste generated from coal burned for electricity at the power plant at Labadie, an unincorporated town about 45 miles southwest of St. Louis.

"It's been a long fight, five long years of trying to get a court or a regulator to appreciate the concerns of the public," said Patricia Schuba, president of the board of the Labadie Environmental Organization.

The ruling comes about a month after the Missouri Department of Natural Resources granted a construction permit for the 167-acre landfill. Schuba said the decision "puts a shadow of a doubt" about whether the landfill can legally be built.

Ameren said in a statement that the ruling "did not include a determination of the merits of either party's cases ..." The statement said Ameren and Franklin County "remain committed to building this state-of-the-art facility," calling it "the right solution for our customers, and a responsible solution for the environment."

The lawsuit filed by environmentalists and some nearby residents cited the potential for groundwater contamination and the plant's location in the Missouri River floodway. Ameren has said the landfill is needed as on-site coal ash storage ponds become full. The St. Louis-based utility said the landfill will have a protective liner and extensive pollution monitoring equipment.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the Franklin County Commission's hearing on a zoning change for the landfill was insufficient because members of the public were not allowed to speak.

"Just as the public is entitled to a reasonable and fair notice of the subject matter of the hearing, it follows that the public hearing should be conducted so that the public can address the subject matter of the proposed zoning amendments," the Supreme Court ruled.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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