Environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit against Ameren Energy Resources over air pollution coming from its Edwards coal-fired plant in Bartonville. Ann Alexander, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council says Ameren itself has reported more than two thousand violations of the federal Clean Air Act over the last five years linked to serious health problems in the area.
"The particular pollution in this case that we are concerned about is particulate matter, which is better known as soot. Soot is known to contribute to cardiovascular disease, trigger asthma attacks, and cause premature death and this plant is no exception."
Alexander says many studies show higher mortality rates around older coal fired plants.The NRDC, Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Policy Center and a number of Peoria area groups claim Ameren has dragged its feet on making improvements that would reduce emissions.
"This is an aging plant. It has been around since the 60s and they have not updated it with modern pollution control equipment and they have done everything they can to kick the can down the road so as not to make these improvements."
Schneider says the Illinois Pollution Control Board recently granted Ameren another five years to install scrubbers and other technology based on the company's economic arguments. Alexander says the grounds of the suit come on settled environmental law used in many parts of the country to force either improvements or plant shutdowns. The coalition claims the plant contributes to seven premature deaths, ten heart attacks, and more than 100 asthma attacks each year.
Ameren says it violates opacity standards only infrequently, operates according to the law, and already removes 99% of the particulates from its flue gas stream. Ameren says the Illinois EPA has not cited the Edwards plant. The company says such litigation is a common tactic used by opponents of coal.
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