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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. – Rather than install pollution control equipment at a Jefferson County coal plant, Ameren Missouri has opted to retire the facility.

The utility company will close Rush Island Energy Center nearly two decades earlier than expected in order to comply with a federal court order.

Rush Island, which began generating power in 1976, is Ameren Missouri’s third-largest energy-producing facility in the state.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sued Ameren Missouri in 2011, saying plant upgrades in 2007 and 2010 resulted in higher emissions of sulfur dioxide by increased coal burning. In 2017, a judge ruled the electric company had to install “scrubbers” to stimy those emissions. Ameren Missouri appealed the ruling but that was rejected in 2019.

According to the EPA, even short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide “can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult.”

Other environmental groups told FOX 2 News that Ameren’s own records show their pollutants are exceeding safe levels. For its part, Ameren Missouri said it has not polluted our water supply and that their families live in the same communities, so they also want safe drinking water.

Installation of those scrubbers could have cost Ameren Missouri several hundred million dollars. Marty Lyons, the president of Ameren Missouri, said the utility company opted to close Rush Island now before its projected 2039 retirement after analyzing the costs and potential burden on the consumer.

The decision to accelerate the retirement of the Rush Island Energy Center comes after carefully considering our legal, operational, and regulatory alternatives, as well as the impact on customer costs and system reliability. We remain committed to reliable and affordable electric service for the benefit of our customers and communities, while reducing emissions and building on our longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship.

Marty Lyons, chairman and president of Ameren Missouri