Ameren's Labadie Power Plant

A local environmental group Tuesday night lost its latest battle against a proposed coal ash landfill that Ameren Missouri wants to build in Labadie.

The Franklin County Board of Zoning Adjustment voted 4-0 to deny an appeal filed by the Labadie Environmental Organization, which argued that the proposed landfill design would not comply with county zoning regulations.

The appeal claimed that the proposed 166-acre landfill would not be 2 feet above the natural water table as required by the county’s land-use regulations.

LEO President Patricia Schuba said the group plans to keep up the fight, saying the next step is circuit court. She said the appeal to circuit court has to be filed within 30 days.

“Hopefully, a higher court will rule in our favor,” Schuba said.

Franklin County Counselor Mark Vincent said he respects BOZA’s decision.

The board members who voted to deny the appeal were Chairman Gordon Upchurch as well as Kat Shaw, Carl Ridder and William Walker.

The board’s decision came about a month after a nearly six-hour hearing that involved LEO, Ameren and Franklin County.

“Obviously, this is a significant matter,” Upchurch said, adding that there are “strong opinions and emotions on both sides.”

Upchurch noted that BOZA had a “microscopic charge” in terms of the decision it had to make. The key issue was whether the elevation of the landfill liner would be 2 feet above the natural water table, Upchurch added.

The evidence presented in the case showed that the natural water table is a “variable or dynamic elevation,” he said.

Evidence and testimony also showed that the Missouri River levels create some of the dynamic nature of the natural water table, Upchurch said.

Jerry Friedman of Labadie said BOZA’s decision represented the will of the “corporate majority” and not the citizens.

Ameren wants to build the landfill to store coal ash, which is the byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity.

Some Labadie residents say they are worried that putting the landfill in a floodplain could contaminate groundwater wells and threaten their health.

But Ameren vows that its landfill would be safe.

For more on this story, please see the weekend edition of The Missourian.