ST. LOUIS — Ameren this month took a new step to retire its Rush Island power plant, found guilty of years of Clean Air Act violations. And it promised on Monday that customer bills would go down as a result.
Ameren, the St. Louis-based power utility, has filed a proposal with state regulators to finance the closure of the Rush Island Energy Center, its coal-fired power plant in Jefferson County.
And the company told the state that the closure would correspond with a decrease in electricity bills, if granted as outlined in the proposal — netting customers $120 million in savings over a 15-year period.
“That is one of the key objectives and one of the key reasons people support it,” said Warren Wood, the company’s vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs in Missouri.
In a series of filings submitted to state regulators at the Missouri Public Service Commission last week, the utility said it plans to use a newly allowed financing policy to help with the planned closure of Rush Island — its second-biggest coal plant — using bonds backed by its ratepayers.
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The commission said in a filing of its own that interested parties have until Dec. 15 to intervene in the case.
The utility’s move comes as the embattled coal plant is mired in a drawn-out legal battle about years of illegal air pollution — proceedings that are charting a path for its closure. Meanwhile, the plant is still running, without any pollution controls, with retirement now targeted for late 2024, according to new filings from Ameren.
Outside energy experts and activists were still trying to learn details about the utility’s proposal on Monday but shared a mix of initial reactions that ranged from positive to guarded. Some welcomed the closure of the aging coal plant, citing both the economic benefits and the elimination of its emissions.
Others said they hoped to see Ameren shift investment from Rush Island toward alternatives.
“It must reinvest those proceeds back into renewable energy and efficiency,” said Andy Knott, a St. Louis-based deputy regional field director for the Sierra Club, which was a party in the case against Rush Island.
In an interview Monday, Ameren officials did not identify specific projects where the money could be diverted but said they would aim to push investment toward things like electric grid improvements and its goal to reach…