What does dependence on coal-fired power mean for Missouri residents?

Although Missouri consumers pay low rates for their utilities, the dependence on coal for over 85% of our energy production has come at a great cost. Burning coal threatens the quality of our air, land, and water, placing the public health at great risk and jeopardizing the economic prosperity of our region. Although we may not see these costs reflected in our rates, we do see them reflected in our health and tax dollars. Nationally, dependence on coal for electricity has been calculated to cost the American people $100 billion in healthcare costs annually.

Coal fired power is a major source of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution and the leading contributor to smog, both of which contribute to asthma attacks. Asthma is the leading cause of hospitalizations in school age children in the St. Louis region and the number one illness that causes children to miss school. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, has cited St. Louis as one of the top ten most challenging places in the United States to live with asthma. In addition, the American Lung Association has said that St. Louis is now considered to be the 10th most polluted city in the nation. In short, our region can no longer afford the “cheap” electricity produced by coal.

In contrast, energy sourced from renewables such as wind and solar are economically viable solutions that contribute to job creation and result in no toxic bi-products. Across the nation, utility companies are responding to consumer demand and making the smart transition to sustainable power sources. Energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to reduce our consumption and reduce the bills that ratepayers pay at the same time. Meanwhile, Missouri has been ranked as 13th out of 50 states for best wind resources, yet we source less than 2% of our energy from wind. Our energy options should not threaten the health and well-being of our community.

What do these maps mean for our health in St. Louis County?

Recognizing a lack of pollution monitoring or controls around Ameren’s Meramec and Labadie coal-fired power plants, the Sierra Club gathered the publicly available data needed to build a plume map to illustrate the severity of SO2 pollution in St. Louis County, caused by Ameren’s Meramec Plant and Labadie plant in Franklin County. Sierra Club used an EPA and DNR-approved air quality dispersion model to evaluate allowable emissions at the Labadie and Meramec Plants and determined that the colored areas of the attached map are at risk of unhealthy concentrations of SO2 from Ameren’s plants. In the areas of highest concentration the Missouri DNR has not proposed any additional SO2 monitors.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution threatens public health by putting citizens at risk of more asthma attacks, severe respiratory problems, lung disease and heart complications. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the safe limit for SO2 pollution is 196 micrograms per cubic meter. When that number goes beyond 196 micrograms per cubic meter, it becomes a health risk for thousands living within the SO2 plume. According to a recent report the Meramec coal-fired power plant inflicts more costs in terms of harm and damage to public health than the value if the electricity it provides by causing more than 50 premature deaths and approximately 1,000 asthma attacks every year.

The Missouri DNR needs to require Ameren to lower its sulfur dioxide emissions to levels that are safe for residents and in accordance with the Clean Air Act.  See the attached file for more Coal Facts.

For more information and to learn how to get involved, please contact Sara Edgar at the Sierra Club at sara.edgar@sierraclub.org or (314) 497-8757



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