Environmental group granted standing in action against power plant owner

By John Breslin | Apr 1, 2019

ST. LOUIS - An environmental group has been granted the right to act on behalf of four of its members in an action against the owners of a coal-fired power plant on the Mississippi River.

The Sierra Club has organizational standing to represent the individuals attempting to force Amerien to make modifications to its Rush Island Energy Center, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri has ruled.

But District Judge Rodney Spiel ruled against the environmental organization over a second plant, Labadie, west of St. Louis.

The action stems from a bench trial overseen by Spiel, at which he found Ameren violated the Clean Air Act when it failed to get a permit ahead of making major changes to Rush Island.

On behalf of the four members, Douglas Melville, Gregg Aubuchon, Gary Kappler, and Dale Wojtkowski, the Sierra Club wants to force Ameren to install the best available control technology (BACT) at Rush Island.

It also was seeking to have the company reduce emissions at Labadie, to compensate for the excess emanating from Rush Island.

The Sierra Club said that is has organizational standing to seek relief because its members were impacted by the excess emissions, the injury is directly linked to Ameran, and there is redress available.

Ameran argued that the four individuals experienced no injury, and any potential injury cannot be linked to Rush Island. Further, their own testimony suggests that any changes to the plant will not make any difference to their situations

However, the four testified that they are concerned about the health effects of the emissions, that they avoid hiking and fishing in the area, or have experienced breathing difficulties.

Ameren claimed the members’ alleged injuries "are not particularized, individual, or personal, to them."

Citing a previous case where standing was granted, Spiel wrote,"“Rather than pinpointing the origins of particular molecules,” the Sierra Club “must merely show that a defendant discharges a pollutant that causes or contributes to the kinds of injuries alleged in the specific geographic area of concern."

"In this case, Kappler and Melville declared that they had changed their recreational activities, and that their recreational enjoyment decreased, because of excess emissions at Rush Island," Spiel wrote before granting the Sierra Club standing. "Ameren does not present evidence contradicting these declarations."

On Labadie, the Sierra Club argued a case that Spiel said he has already settled, that he has the power to order reduction in emissions at a different plant. He denied standing.

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