The Franklin County Commission Tuesday voted 2-1 in favor of adopting land use amendments which removes a major hurdle for a coal ash landfill in the Labadie area.
Commissioners heard more than an hour of public comments prior to voting on the regulations.
Commissioner Terry Wilson, whose district includes the Labadie area, and Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer voted in favor of the amendments. Commissioner Ann Schroeder voted against them.
Ameren Missouri is proposing to build a new coal combustion waste landfill on 400 acres of land neighboring its existing power plant in Labadie
The commission had little to say before its vote, but members of the public took up the slack.
Immediately following the commission's vote, members of the audience began shouting "shame" at the commissioners. The majority of the roughly 100 people in attendance left the meeting immediately following the vote.
All of the public comments were made before the commission voted on the order approving the amendments.
"The community has invested two years of our time and resources on the issue," Labadie area resident Petra Haynes said.
"I strongly oppose the changing of the zoning laws to allow for utility waste landfills," she said.
"This site Ameren wants to use is the only site where a landfill could be built under the regulations," Haynes said.
Haynes noted the property is situated in both the floodplain and the flood way, according to new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps which the commission adopted earlier this year.
Area residents Richard Haynes, John George and others noted that the presence of floodwaters, the risk of building on a seismic zone and a groundwater level that fluctuates widely can and will cause any berm or liner of the proposed landfill to fail.
Steve Gambaro, a retired engineer and business owner who lives in Labadie, said the flood protection the county is calling for in the regulations can't guarantee protection for county residents.
"All berms will fail," he said. "Only the Missouri River knows when and where."
Haynes said the commission's attempts to limit coal ash from being brought in to the proposed landfill from outside sites was "at best a roll of the dice."
"You don't know what Ameren plans to do because Ameren hasn't filed an application," she said.
The company has outlined its plans for the facility at several open house meetings in the Labadie area over the past several years.
The facility being proposed would involve storing the ash, which would be mixed with water to set up into a solid, in cells.
Kathy Holloway, Labadie, said arguments from the commission that there were no alternative plans presented wasn't a valid one.
"(Ameren) is a corporation and it is their job to figure out where to dump their junk," Holloway said.
Ron Holloway said the commission should have put the issue before county voters in the form of a referendum.
Critical of Commissioner
Ron Keeven, New Haven, a regular critic of the commission, said Griesheimer should have recused himself from the issue, having taken money from Ameren and Ameren employees for campaigns during his time in the state House and Senate.
"I have been waiting for you to step up and do the right thing," he said to Griesheimer, noting that during his campaign for the office he would recuse himself during any conflict of interest.
Keeven was an unsuccessful candidate for the commission.
Eric Riechert, Villa Ridge, also was critical of Griesheimer and his prior campaign.
"The presiding commissioner gave his word that no landfill in Franklin County would be allowed except with a CUP," he said. "I guess this was just political rhetoric and we shouldn't think he actually meant it."
Ginger Gambaro said Griesheimer repeatedly called for a CUP requirement even after his election.
Griesheimer told The Missourian in January and prior to the August 2010 Republican primary he supported requiring a conditional use permit for all landfills.
"Everyone has known where I stand," he said earlier this year.
Griesheimer at the time said not requiring a conditional use permit "would give Ameren a blank check. I've said all along that this needs to be done with a conditional use permit."
He later reversed his position at the advice of County Counselor Mark Vincent, who said CUPs traditionally are challenged more often in court.
The regulations the county adopted require CUPs for nonutility waste landfills, however.
Kay Genovese, a Labadie Environmental Organization supporter and Grand Army Road resident, said the commission could be overlooking alternatives for beneficial reuse and new jobs in the county.
"We have given you information about alternatives, about what is being done with this material all over the world. They're making glass blocks in China. They're using it for concrete blocks in Germany. This waste product is being put to work, people are being put to work, all over the world," Genovese said.
"I don't believe you've had the time, opportunity or wherewithal to really investigate these alternatives," she said.
"You have witnessed our fortitude in fighting against this bad idea. You can't imagine what we could do fighting for a good idea," Genovese said.
Susan Yarborough, owner of a restaurant in the Labadie community, said the landfill will negatively impact her business and others with increased truck traffic, reduced water quality and toxic dust in the air.
"A town that is now known as a charming place to spend a day in the country will become known as a toxic waste site. This will not exactly help our business or our property values," Yarborough said.
Riechert criticized the commission for not following its own rules for hearings, allowing Ameren representatives to speak about the specific proposed site but telling members of the public that they were only allowed to address concerns about the proposed regulations.
He said St. Charles County, which has recently permitted a similar ash landfill, has 110 pages of regulations and requires a conditional use permit and is not facing legal action from Ameren.
Franklin County's regulations are only about a dozen pages and make utility waste landfills a permitted use.
Riechert said the commission's actions weren't in the best interest of the people.
"If regulation was truly the intent, it would be a CUP," he said.
"You do not have the consent of the governed and you are acting outside your expressed authority and have no excuse whatsoever other than despotism," Riechert said. "A statesman does what he knows to be right and defers his private interests to the will of the people. A politician caters to the entity he believes will benefit him most."
Say Landfill Is Risky
LEO President Patricia Schuba said there is nothing in the county's interests in allowing Ameren to build a landfill.
"Building a landfill in the Missouri River floodplain is an enormous risk," she said. "We hold the power to protect ourselves.
"There's no reason to look to Jefferson City or Washington, D.C.," Schuba said regarding potential regulations from the state Department of Natural Resources and federal Environmental Protection Agency.
John Hickey with the Missouri Sierra Club said coal ash disposal is a regional issue, however, noting his drinking water, the drinking water of his two children and that of 200,000 children downstream in St. Louis county all comes from the Missouri River.