Labadie Power Station

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Labadie Power Station is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Ameren near Labadie, Missouri. It is the largest power plant in the state. The coal waste sites for the plant include the Labadie Power Station Bottom Ash Pond and the Labadie Power Station Fly Ash Pond. In 2012, Ameren Electric bought farmland in the Missouri River floodplain to build a new 400-acre coal ash landfill for the plant.[1][2]

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Plant Data

  • Owner: Union Electric Company
  • Parent Company: Ameren
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 2,389 MW
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 574 MW (1970), 574 MW (1971), 621 MW (1972), 621 MW (1973)
  • Location: 10 Labadie Power Plant Rd., Labadie, MO 63055
  • GPS Coordinates: 38.56419, -90.83728
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 17,459,154 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 51,445 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 9,309 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 1,130 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Labadie Power Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[3] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[4]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Labadie Power Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 110 $820,000,000
Heart attacks 180 $19,000,000
Asthma attacks 1,900 $100,000
Hospital admissions 82 $1,900,000
Chronic bronchitis 69 $31,000,000
Asthma ER visits 120 $45,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Waste Site

Leak at coal waste site

Since 1992, the Labadie Power Station Bottom Ash Pond has been 'seeping' coal waste - up to 35 gallons a minute for two decades. Ameren said there's no evidence the leaks have fouled the groundwater or the drinking water of nearby homes, but critics say that's because neither the state nor the company has ever tested the area for contamination. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the agency charged with regulating coal ash ponds and enforcing the Clean Water Act in the state, isn't required to monitor groundwater at the site under current state laws. But it has legal authority to do so under the plant's water permit and hasn't — despite learning of the leaks from Ameren 19 years ago, according to utility filings with the DNR.

Ameren uses water to wash the coal waste to unlined ponds west of the plant. There, the waste sinks to the bottom, and the water drains through a permitted outfall into Labadie Creek and the Missouri River. One pond constructed in 1993, Labadie Power Station Fly Ash Pond, has a protective liner. The leaking 154-acre Labadie Power Station Bottom Ash Pond, which began receiving coal ash when Labadie began operation in 1970, actually has two leaks, according to information provided by Ameren to the DNR. The smaller one, flowing at a rate of up to 5 gallons a minute, is near the wastewater outfall and leaks into the creek. The other leak releases up to 30 gallons a minute on the south side of the pond. Combined, that's the equivalent of more than 50,000 gallons of water escaping the ponds each day, or nearly 350 million gallons over 19 years.

The water discharge permit for the plant expired 12 years ago. Ameren applied for a permit renewal in 1998, but the department has yet to finish its review. Under state law, the plant can legally continue operating under the existing 1994 permit. DNR officials have declined to be interviewed about the leaking ash ponds. Spokeswoman Renee Bungart said the agency has asked Ameren to resubmit its water permit application, but provided no timeline.

Members of the Labadie Environmental Organization said they are concerned because the leaking waste site sits in alluvial soil — a fine mix of silt, sand and clay that's an easy pathway for contamination to migrate via water.[5]

In October 2011, state officials said they found new leaks in coal ash retention ponds at the Labadie power plant. Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials visited the Labadie plant Sept. 20, 2011. During that visit, the company observed three visible leaks in the ash drying ponds, two of which were not related to those reported in 1992. One leak was reported as discharging approximately 30 gallons per minute into land owned by Ameren.[6]

Labadie ranked 22nd on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[7] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[8]

Labadie Power Station ranked number 22 on the list, with 1,740,882 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[7]

Labadie ranked 4th in terms of mercury emissions

A 2010 report by the Environmental Integrity Project using EPA data found that Labadie is the 4th worst mercury polluter in the United States, emitting 1,442 pounds of mercury in 2008, the most recent year for data.[9]

Citizens oppose new coal ash site for plant

In June 2010, environmental groups voiced opposition to a plan from Ameren to build a 400-acre coal ash landfill for the plant near the Missouri River, about 35 miles west of St. Louis. The group is trying to prevent the county from changing its zoning regulations. The environmentalists say the changes would make it too easy for Ameren to put a landfill in an area not zoned for waste disposal. Patricia Schuba with the Labadie Environmental Organization says coal ash contaminants could leach into groundwater and the Missouri River: "Fifty percent of Missourians drink from Missouri River water. So this is an issue that has been painted as very local, but it's truly a metro St. Louis issue." Ameren officials say the landfill would be lined to prevent groundwater contamination and surrounded by a berm to keep out flood water.[10]

On December 14, 2010, in the first hearing on the new waste site, environmentalists and residents urged the Franklin County Commission to hold off on a proposed change in the zoning code that would pave the way for Ameren Missouri to build the new coal ash landfill near the Labadie plant. The group said the commission should wait to act until the Environmental Protection Agency announces its long-planned coal waste regulations. The group also called for an advisory committee on the issue, reflecting environmentalists' longtime concerns that Ameren's proposed landfill could leak in the event of a disaster, causing heavy metals from ash to enter the St. Louis area's drinking water and pose serious health risks.[11]

If the commission approves the zoning change, Ameren would still need a variety of government permits to build its landfill. Construction likely would not occur for another two years. Ameren captures about 99 percent of the ash that its coal-fired power plants would otherwise emit. About half the waste is recycled, according to the utility, but the rest must be disposed. Ameren proposed the landfill because its existing coal-ash ponds are reaching capacity. The landfill's proposed location is in a flood plain. Environmentalists and their experts said a landfill in a flood plain has an especially high risk of leaking toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and selenium into groundwater in the event of a flood or earthquake. They're concerned that the toxins could make their way down the Missouri River, which supplies drinking water across the St. Louis region.[11]

Even if the commission amends its landfill code to allow Ameren's landfill to go forward, environmentalists said they don't want a landfill that falls below EPA's eventual standards. If Ameren gets approval on the landfill before EPA enacts its regulations, then the landfill would be grandfathered under existing standards.[11]

Franklin County moves forward with ash site

On July 6, 2011, Franklin County commissioners directed the county's attorney to draft a zoning amendment to allow Ameren Missouri to construct the controversial coal ash dump on 1,100 acres along the Missouri River. Commissioners held a working session to discuss zoning for landfills — specifically Ameren's plans to build a new coal ash landfill. The St. Louis Dispatch reported that while one commissioner, Ann Schroeder, expressed opposition to building a coal ash landfill on land designated as flood plain, there was no doubt from the hour-long discussion that the three-member panel planned to press forward with the utility's request: "If we're going to deny it, then I think we have to at least have an alternative," John Griesheimer, the presiding commissioner, said afterward. No suitable alternative has been presented, he said.

Patricia Schuba, president of the Labadie Environmental Organization, a grassroots group challenging Ameren's proposal, wasn't surprised by the commission's decision to proceed with the zoning change, but was hopeful that whatever restrictions are written into the local regulations would be enough to make Ameren rethink its plans. Among the restrictions discussed by commissioners were:

  • Requiring a concrete flood wall around areas where coal waste is stored;
  • Requiring the floor of the landfill to be above the 100-year floodplain -- a condition that could drive up the cost for Ameren to develop the facility;
  • Prohibiting coal ash from other Ameren plants from being disposed of in Franklin County;
  • Requiring Ameren to obtain a new operating permit annually at a cost of $50,000. The money could go to hiring an environmental officer to help ensure the landfill meets local, state and federal regulations;
  • Requiring quarterly soil testing.

The Franklin County attorney has until July 19 to prepare a draft zoning amendment. Commissioners plan another work session on July 25 to review it and discuss changes. The amendment could be approved after that.[12]

On October 25, 2011, the Franklin County Commission voted 2-1 in favor of adopting land use amendments which removes a major hurdle for a coal ash landfill in the Labadie area. Immediately following the commission's vote, many of the 100 community members in the audience began shouting "shame" at the commissioners.[13]

Shareholder resolution for Ameren to disclose coal waste practices narrowly defeated

On April 21, 2011, the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment voted on a shareholder proposal that would have required Ameren to provide detailed information about coal waste management and how those efforts may reduce risks to company finances and operations. The proposal got 46 percent of the votes cast — short of the majority needed to pass. The subject of coal ash disposal has taken on significance because of plans by Ameren Missouri to build a new coal ash landfill in the Missouri River floodplain next to the Labadie Power Station, spurring contentious zoning hearings in Franklin County, Illinois. In response to the shareholder vote, Ameren Chief Executive Thomas R. Voss said that he recognized there is interest in the issue and that the company will release 'substantial" information on its coal waste practices by the end of 2011 as part of a broader report on social responsibility; Ameren, however, had advised shareholders to vote against the resolution, saying such a report was "not necessary, prudent or cost effective." The company didn't specify what information it would provide as part of the corporate responsibility report, or whether it would address issues raised in the resolution. Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy advisory firm, has also recommended that shareholders support resolutions involving corporate sustainability. [14]

Articles and Resources

Sources

  1. "Coal Ash Dumps Across the Nation Are Looking to Expand," Earth Island Journal, June 11, 2012.
  2. Veronique LaCapra, "Franklin County residents fight coal ash landfill plan" St. Louis Public Radio, June 15, 2010.
  3. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  4. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  5. Jeffrey Tomich, "Leaks from Ameren toxic waste pond in Labadie stir fears" stltoday, Sep. 1, 2011.
  6. Evin Fritschle, "DNR Finds New Leaks in Ameren Coal Ash Ponds" Missourian, Oct. 18, 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  8. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  9. "Dirty Kilowatts: America's Top 50 Power Plant Mercury Polluters" WOUB, March 2010.
  10. Veronique LaCapra, "Franklin County residents fight coal ash landfill plan" St. Louis Public Radio, June 15, 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Puneet Kollipara, "Labadie environmentalists protest zoning change to allow coal-ash landfill" St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 15, 2010.
  12. Jeffrey Tomich, "Ameren's Labadie coal ash plan inches forward" St. Louis Dispatch, July 6, 2011.
  13. Evin Fritschle, "County Amends Code, Clears Way for Utility Landfill" emissourian, Oct. 25, 2011.
  14. Jeffrey Tomich, "Request for coal waste information rejected at Ameren meeting" stltoday, April 22, 2011.

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