April 18, 2013
PEORIA, IL – Today, the Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and Respiratory Health Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Peoria against Ameren Energy Resources Company LLC and its subsidiary. The complaint cites more than 1,000 violations of the federal Clean Air Act from emissions at Ameren’s E.D. Edwards coal-fired power plant in Bartonville, Ill.
“Particle pollution can get deep down into lungs and cause respiratory and pulmonary problems,” said Andrew Armstrong, Attorney at Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Opacity is one way of measuring particle pollution. Ameren has more than 1,000 opacity violations, indicating that they have poured too much of this dangerous pollution into Central Illinois communities.”
The basis for the Clean Air Act violations is data collected by Ameren at its own facilities using electronic continuous opacity monitoring systems. Ameren reports data from its monitoring systems quarterly to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). In an effort to investigate and protect Illinois’ air, the Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and Respiratory Health Association requested the data from IEPA, which revealed egregious violations of the Clean Air Act by exceeding opacity limits allowed in Ameren’s permit on numerous occasions between 2008 and 2013.
“It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Edwards plant is a pollution problem and Ameren is on the hook to fix it,” said Ann Alexander, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. . “Ameren has dragged their feet on making the necessary improvements for far too long. If they can afford to upgrade their equipment, then they should. If not, they shouldn’t be operating this plant. And nor should anyone else.”
Research by the Clean Air Task Force has shown that Ameren’s Edwards coal plant, mostly constructed in the 1960s, contributes to seven premature deaths, ten heart attacks and more than 100 asthma attacks each year. According to the Respiratory Health Association, hospitalization rates for asthma are highest for those under four years of age and over 65 years of age.
“People with lung disease are among those hardest hit by air pollution and the incidence of those diseases, including asthma and COPD, is still increasing.” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for Respiratory Health Association. “Generating electricity shouldn’t be sickening and killing the most vulnerable among us. Illinois’ constitution states that it is the duty of each person to provide and maintain a healthful environment for the benefit of this and future generations. Coal power is not fulfilling that goal; nonpolluting energy efficiency and clean renewable power sources like wind and solar do and that’s what we as a state should prioritize.”
The lawsuit was announced in a press conference today in Peoria by the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, a community group recently formed in the Peoria metro area due to concerns over local air and water pollution caused by the Edwards coal plant. The Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance is comprised of Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste, Central Illinois Global Warming Solutions, Prairie Rivers Network and the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign in Illinois.
“Our community has endured decades of pollution from Ameren’s Edwards coal plant, and we are ready to leave toxic air and water in the past,” said Joyce Blumenshine, Sierra Club Heart of Illinois Group Chair and member of Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. “We want a healthy place for our families to grow and thrive. It is time to phase out burning coal at the Edwards coal-fired power plant. We’re ready for clean energy and efficiency to replace dependence on fossil fuels.”
“Our community deserves better than polluted air and toxic waste in our water,” said Tracy Fox, representative of Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste and member of Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. “After years of pollution, it is time to either clean up or phase out burning coal in our community. We are calling on all stakeholders – elected officials and regulators, Ameren, Dynegy, the plant’s workers and their unions, health care providers and their patients, environmentalists, neighborhood and community groups, churches and schools – to collaborate on a plan that ensures justice for all.”
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