by Henry Robertson
Missouri ranks 43rd in the country in energy efficiency (EE), according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. As we reduce energy use, we can start to shutter old coal plants. We have made some big progress on EE in the last few months. The Sierra Club has joint settlements with two utilities, Ameren Missouri and KCPL-GMO (Greater Missouri Operations) for the next generation of utility energy efficiency (EE) programs.
Ameren has budgeted $147 million for the next 3 years, which should result in customer benefits of $360 million. This is by far the largest EE effort by a Missouri utility to date, and will begin January 1st. GMO will spend $39 million with ratepayer benefits of $110 million. The programs will be for residential and business customers and include low-income weatherization.
Building energy codes are another key EE opportunity; in the St. Louis area, Hazelwood adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code on Nov. 17th, replacing the existing 2003 code. The new code will save 15-25% in energy use in new homes. Sierra Club Members Frankie Appleby and Carol Noll helped convince council members to do the right thing!
Columbia Campus Coal Plant
The Sierra Student Coalition students at Mizzou have extracted a commitment from the University administration to stop burning coal at the Columbia campus power plant! While that is a big concession, students are now pushing for a specific timeline for this transition.
Coal Ash dumps in KC and St. Louis
KC leader Claus Wawrzinek blew the whistle on coal injection sites in metro KC where coal ash slurry is pumped into empty mines. With the support of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center (GRELC), the Club convinced the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to tighten the permit for Underground Service Company’s injection of coal ash slurry within half a mile of the Missouri River. The DNR is now requiring the company to monitor for heavy metals in the effluent from the mine – the first readings will be taken by January 28, and the Club will obtain these readings to ensure that the public health is being protected.
The Club is also fighting efforts to expand coal ash dumping at three Ameren plants in the St. Louis area, including Labadie, Meramec, and Rush Island. Labadie-area member Pat Schuba’s leadership on this issue is now encouraging activists across the state to fight this issue in their own backyards!
The Club’s new Beyond Oil Campaign is looking for ways to challenge pipelines that are being built to funnel Alberta tar sands oil to domestic markets and shipping ports (so much for energy independence). TransCanada has already built one of these across Missouri, the Keystone 1. Now another Canadian company, Enbridge, which is responsible for the terrible oil spill into the Kalamazoo River, has plans for another pipeline. Called the Flanagan South, it will run from Flanagan, IL, south of Chicago, cross the Mississippi near Hannibal and traverse 11 Missouri counties before entering Kansas en route to Oklahoma.
Pipeline regulation is unfortunately very inadequate. No agency regulates the siting of pipelines, and this one will be built next to an existing oil pipeline, the Spearhead, which should reduce their need to use eminent domain. Tar sands pipelines are treated no differently than conventional oil pipelines even though they don’t carry oil at all, but instead dilbit: diluted bitumen. Bitumen is the goop for which the tar sands are named. To make it flow through a pipeline they have to cut it with liquid natural gas condensates, and then heat it. Dilbit is also much more corrosive to the pipes than crude oil.