A federal judge could order Ameren Missouri to install hundreds of millions of dollars in pollution equipment at a coal plant in Jefferson County after a two-week trial that ended Wednesday.
Justice Department lawyers on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency sued Ameren more than five years ago, arguing that the utility had made major modifications to its Rush Island power plant that increased sulfur dioxide emissions without the required permits.
In a trial that began Aug. 22, the utility contended the work was only routine maintenance and shouldn’t be subject to Clean Air Act rules triggering new pollution controls. It has argued the equipment installed in 2007 and 2010 actually made the plant more efficient, reducing emissions per ton of coal burned.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel will make a ruling without a jury after final court briefings are due from the parties in mid-October. The government wants Ameren to install “scrubbers” to control sulfur dioxide emissions, which are a byproduct of coal combustion and cause heart and lung issues blamed for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.
The Justice Department has brought similar suits since the ’90s to force power plant pollution upgrades after equipment modifications.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch