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Coal group defends Ameren, insists St. Louis air is clean

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Finally, someone comes up with real results from tests on Missouri’s air. AIM and Ameren have fought environmental groups that rely on out of date studies to make their points. We now have science that proves Ameren’s work in clean coal technology is making a difference.

A new report from a national coal industry group says Ameren Missouri’s power plants have not hurt air quality in the St. Louis region.

The report was publicized just days before the Missouri Air Conservation Commission is to decide whether to rein in air pollution from Ameren Missouri’s Labadie coal plant, the largest in the state.

Gradient Corp., an environmental science consulting firm, wrote the report, which was commissioned by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Ameren and Peabody Energy, both based in St. Louis, and Arch Coal, of Creve Coeur, are members of the Clean Coal group.

The national coal group has entered the fray as Ameren faces the possibility of stricter limits on the largest coal plant in Missouri and fends off jabs from a persistent, well-financed Sierra Club.

Air quality in the St. Louis region is often as good or better than other metropolitan areas and has improved in recent years, the report’s authors conclude. The Clean Coal report focuses on particulate matter, or soot, a byproduct of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by coal power plants.

The report’s authors emphasize that particulate matter produced from Ameren’s four regional coal plants is small compared to exposure from other indoor and outdoorsources.

“We now have clear scientific evidence that St. Louis residents are breathing clean air, and that there is no valid association between particulate matter from specific power plants and health problems,” Laura Sheehan, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity senior vice president of communications, said in a statement. “St. Louis needs affordable, clean and reliable energy, not a politicized agenda.”

The group used the report to take aim at “professional environmental groups” that have been urging Missouri’s air regulators to impose stronger emission controls on Ameren’s coal-dominated power plant fleet.

Environmental Protection Agency research and academic studies say coal emissions and soot exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

As part of a nationwide campaign, the Sierra Club has become a regular presence in obscure regulatory meetings. Its efforts are funded by millions of dollars in donations from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other backers.

Recently, the Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter has focused on Ameren’s sulfur dioxide emissions. While the amount of that pollutant has decreased significantly, three of Ameren’s coal plants don’t have equipment to clean sulfur dioxide emissions. Instead, Ameren relies on low-sulfur coal mined in Wyoming by Peabody Energy to meet federal emission rules.

The Clean Coal report takes special issue with claims by environmental groups that asthma rates have increased because of power plant emissions.

“The health effects calculated by environmental organizations for Ameren power plant emissions are theoretical and may well be zero,” the authors say.

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