A judge has denied a request to appoint a referee to take additional evidence in a lawsuit challenging a proposed coal ash waste landfill in the Labadie Bottoms.
Associate Circuit Judge Robert Schollmeyer denied a motion by Ameren Missouri to appoint a referee in the case on Friday, July 13.
Ameren had sought to introduce additional evidence and expert testimony to refute specific claims raised in the lawsuit including that the groundwater near its Labadie power plant was contaminated.
A group of property owners who live near the plant and an environmental group sued the Franklin County Commission in November after it passed a land use regulation that could allow Ameren Missouri to build a landfill on a 400-acre site adjacent to the plant.
Judge Schollmeyer previously dismissed several counts of the lawsuit including a claim that the Franklin County Commission didn’t provide adequate public hearings on the land use regulation.
On Friday, he also denied a request by Ameren to inspect the groundwater on property owned by the plaintiffs. Schollmeyer ruled that motion was moot since he was not going to allow additional evidence in the case according to lawyers who attended the hearing.
Timothy J. Tryniecki, a lawyer representing Ameren, said he wasn’t bothered by the ruling because there was ample evidence in the case to support the commission’s decision to pass a land use regulation allowing a utility waste landfill.
“We are confident that the evidence in the voluminous, approximately 1 1/2-year record of public hearings and comment shows undeniably that the county commissions’ decision on this legislation was within its discretion and was in the best interest of the citizens of the county, and that they have done what they have been elected to do,” Tryniecki said Monday.
“We also continue to believe that if the petitioners were truly concerned about contamination of their wells from a new utility waste landfill and the existing ponds, as they have so often alleged, they would have welcomed sampling of their own water supply and, in addition, not fought so hard against additional circuit court testimony by scientists and other experts on their lengthy environmental allegations of concern about the landfill,” he added.
Lawyers in the case will file briefs on the remaining issues in the case which could be decided later this year.
Ameren applied for a permit for the landfill last month. The county has hired an independent engineering firm to review the request to determine if it complies with county regulations.
The utility would also need to obtain permits from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Public Service Commission before it could begin construction of the landfill.