LABADIE, Mo. (KMOX) – Weather forced cancellation of a meeting last week, but when another can be rescheduled Franklin County officials will take more public comment on whether to green light coal ash landfills. Yet the company proposing such a facility — Ameren Missouri — could be the 18 million megawatt gorilla in the room.
“Because that’s not the issue at hand,” says Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer on why the commission says it won’t listen to testimony about Ameren.
Griesheimer says the issue is whether the county should change zoning laws to allow utility waste landfills in flood plains, regardless of whether Ameren ever asks to do so. “Ameren has not filed an application with the Franklin County planning and zoning department so therefore there is not an application at hand.” And for that reason, Griesheimer says he’s been advised by legal counsel to prohibit any testimony specific to Ameren.
The utility has been open about it’s desire to build a coal ash storage site on 400 acres next to it’s Labadie power plant on the Missouri River. It’s even started the state permitting process and has a page dedicated to the project on it’s website.
“I don’t think it’s being genuine with the public to say it’s not about Ameren,” says Patricia Schuba of LEO, the Labadie Environmental Organization.
The group’s attorney, Maxine Lipeles has uncovered county e-mails dating back to the spring where Ameren sends a draft of the zoning proposal to a county staffer. “It makes it that much more clear what’s already obvious that this is only about Ameren and this is motivated by Ameren,” says Lipeles. “To say it’s not about Ameren, it’s about something general. Why are they saying it’s not about Ameren? But if you actually read the [zoning proposal] language it the only company it applies to is Ameren and the only thing it applies to is coal ash.”
The last public hearing in December went hours. Griesheimer tells KMOX this second hearing should be the last, though he says it’s possible commissioners may ask some people who testify to return to answer more questions at a later date. “We have no reason to want to jam this thing through in a quick fashion.”
Tonight’s hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at East Central College, Auditorium AC Building in Union, Missouri. (NewsRadio 1120 and KMOX.com will provide updates if the meeting is postponed due to expected winter storms.)
The zoning changes proposed would basically allow a utility (coal ash) landfill in a flood plain through the regular permitting process. Any other landfills would fall under conditional use permits, meaning applicants would have to provide more information to get approval.
The US EPA is currently considering new rules governing the handling and storage of coal waste.
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