Sister Investors' Resolution from Ameren Well Supported

At Ameren's annual meeting on April 21, its shareholders voted 46 percent "yes," 42 percent "no" and 12 percent abstain on a shareholder resolution calling for a report identifying the company's liabilities associated with coal ash generation and efforts to minimize coal ash generation. The resolution was offered by the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, a faith-based coalition of investors seeking environmental and social responsibility.

Although the resolution technically failed, the support was huge. Ameren acknowledged that and pledged to prepare a “social responsibility report” addressing the concerns raised in the resolution.

To read more, click on the links for local press coverage.
St. Louis Post Dispatch
St. Louis Public Radio

Sister Investors Seek Disclosure from Ameren
By Sister Barbara Jennings
Coordinator, Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investments

Five local institutional investors: School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, St. Mary Institute of O’Fallon, Marianist Province of the United States have filed a shareholder resolution asking Ameren to prepare a report on its efforts to reduce environmental and health hazards associated with coal ash disposal at the utility’s coal-fired power plants. The resolution also seeks disclosure of the impact of these risks on the company’s legal, financial, and reputational liability. The resolution will be voted on at Ameren’s upcoming annual shareholder meeting on April 21.

Coal ash is generated by burning coal and by trapping pollutants in pollution control equipment before passing through the smokestack. Coal ash contains numerous toxins, including arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, and selenium. These toxins have been linked to cancer, organ failure, neurological disease, and other serious health problems. Ameren currently operates 35 active coal ash ponds at its coal-fired power plants in Missouri and Illinois, 19 of which are unlined. It also operates a coal ash landfill at its Newton plant in Illinois, and it recently constructed a new coal ash landfill at the Sioux plant in Missouri.

“While Ameren Missouri is a good corporate citizen in some respects, there are some fatal flaws in their history and forward-looking plans for coal combustion waste. We as investors want to make sure they are protecting human beings and natural resources and our water supply,” says Sister Barbara Jennings, CSJ, coordinator of the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment. “We are concerned that a large ash pond at the Labadie plant on the Missouri River has been leaking large amounts of coal ash wastewater for nearly 20 years without monitoring or cleanup.”

Ameren investors have particular reason for concern given the company’s past problems regarding coal ash disposal. Leaching of coal ash from Ameren’s Venice, IL coal-fired power plant has already resulted in significant contamination of offsite groundwater, and the costs of containment and cleanup are set to exceed $11.2 million. In 1992 Ameren admitted that its unlined coal ash pond in Labadie, MO had two leaks, one of which was leaking 51,000 gallons per day. No action has been taken to repair these leaks, monitor area groundwater, or cleanup any contamination that may have occurred over the past two decades.

Ameren is also currently seeking state and local approval to place a new coal ash landfill in the Missouri River floodplain at its Labadie plant, despite opposition from local residents who are concerned about potential damage to the groundwater on which they rely for drinking water. In addition, residents downstream are concerned about contaminating the Missouri River, their source of drinking water, particularly in the event of a flood or earthquake.

Although Ameren included some information on its coal ash disposal practices in response to an EPA questionnaire, the disclosure was extremely limited. It did not address the potential liability Ameren could face if it is found to have contaminated the environment, it did not identify the known leakage problems, and it did not describe efforts that Ameren may be undertaking to minimize the risks associated with coal ash disposal, including those above and beyond compliance with the law.

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