Reality Check - The Missourian: Opinion

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Reality Check

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Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 8:16 am

The Missouri Public Service Commission last week delivered the most succinct analysis to date on the proposed coal ash landfill in Labadie.

The PSC’s order granting Ameren Missouri’s application cuts to the crux of the issue and concludes it is in the public’s interest to build the landfill where and in the manner it is proposed  — next to the power plant.

The 26-page decision is imbued with reason, wisdom and a healthy dose of Missouri common sense.

Specifically, the decision found that many of the arguments against the landfill leveled by environmental groups were simply unfounded.

The PSC’s order tells it like it is. When you peel back the rind of fears, obfuscations and unsubstantiated allegations, you get down to the core issue — the coal ash has to go somewhere. The best place for it, according to the PSC, is right where Ameren wants to put it.

In a straightforward analysis, the PSC laid out the facts for approving the landfill including:

The landfill site and design comply with all state and federal regulations;

The coal ash disposed in the landfill sets into a dry form that is essentially a large block of concrete that would be impervious to flood erosion;

The landfill is not subject to significant earthquake damage and will be protected from flooding to the 500-year flood level by a reinforced berm;

The coal ash will be separated from contact with groundwater around the landfill and drinking water wells in the area will not be impacted;

The groundwater around landfill will be adequately safeguarded by a network of monitoring wells.

Critics have argued that the landfill shouldn’t be located next to the power plant because it is in a floodplain. That would require transporting the waste to another site presumably by truck.

The PSC rejected this option noting it would add another $100 million to the project which ratepayers would ultimately pay. Moreover, it would require between 160 to 200 enclosed tanker trucks traveling through Labadie each day to transport the waste.

In making its most persuasive point, the PSC cited an engineering report that made a simple but immutable point. It’s a point that has been lost or wallpapered over in the unending back and forth over the landfill.

The report concluded that a utility waste landfill would likely be perceived as a public nuisance and would likely draw public opposition.

Therefore, the best location to site a new public nuisance is next to an existing nuisance. In the case of a utility waste landfill, the best location is probably adjacent to the power plant that is generating the waste that will be disposed at the landfill.

The PSC’s decision isn’t the end of the landfill debate, far from it. But it does provide a reality check in a controversy that has gone on for too long.

/opinion

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