Group Appeals County Landfill Code Ruling - The Missourian: Local News

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Group Appeals County Landfill Code Ruling

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Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 11:15 pm

A group of Labadie residents has appealed a lawsuit ruling over a proposed coal ash landfill that they say would be a health risk.

The Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO) lost its lawsuit against Franklin County last month in circuit court when the judge ruled that the county commission legally adopted zoning regulations allowing for the landfill.

Ameren Missouri plans to build a coal ash landfill next to its coal-fired power plant in Labadie.

The appeal challenges the public hearing process the county commission used prior to approving the zoning amendment for the landfill.

During the public hearings, the commission prohibited citizens from specifically discussing the proposed Ameren coal ash landfill, the plaintiffs say.

But Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said the county did its due diligence prior to approving the landfill zoning amendment.

Griesheimer said he did instruct those speaking at the public hearings to only address the zoning amendment in general and not the Ameren coal ash landfill. But he said he still allowed some comments about the proposed Ameren landfill.

The appeal also challenges the legality of the landfill zoning amendment. The plaintiffs say the landfill regulations passed by the Franklin County Commission violated the basic zoning regulation requirement to “promote the health, safety, general welfare, and property values of the county.”

But Griesheimer said the landfill will have a liner and other measures to ensure that it is safe to the public.

In a prepared statement issued after the appeal was filed in the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District in St. Louis, plaintiff Patricia Schuba said, “How could the county commission allow the endangerment of residents’ health and risk reduced local property values in Labadie, St. Albans, Gray Summit, Augusta, Washington and Pacific?”

She added that studies show that living near a coal ash dump site increases cancer risk and lowers property values.

Ameren is currently going through the permitting process with the state Department of Natural Resources to build the landfill.

Ameren hopes to begin construction of the 166-acre landfill in 2014. It will be built in several phases over 15-20 years with phase one expected to cost about $27 million.

Griesheimer said he knew the appeal was coming. He said he thinks the county will prevail.

“I feel that we did everything right,” Griesheimer said. The problem comes in if you’ve got a judge who tries to legislate instead of being a judge, he added.

He expects it will be appealed again if the group loses this appeal.

“I assume they’re going to take it as far as they can financially take it,” Griesheimer said.

He said the group’s sole purpose is to shut down Ameren’s Labadie power plant.

In a statement, Ameren responded to the appeal saying, “We believe Franklin County acted properly in enacting the landfill ordinance and that the petitioners had a fair and just opportunity to be heard both before the county commission and the circuit court. We are confident that the court of appeals will, just like the trial court, reject LEO’s legal arguments.”

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