Gov. Jay Nixon has signed legislation directing Missouri regulators to develop their own standards for carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.
The bill signing Monday comes as the federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules that would require Missouri to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by more than one-fifth by 2030. Missouri's electricity production relies heavily on coal-fired power plants, which release greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change.
The bill says state officials can develop carbon dioxide emission standards that are less stringent than federal guidelines. Missouri legislators had passed the measure before the proposed federal regulations were released. They were concerned the U.S. guidelines could be costly to comply with for electric companies.
Meantime, Missouri's largest utility says it will close a coal-fired power plant in south St. Louis County within the next several years. Ameren Missouri has told state regulators it will shut down the 61-year-old Meramec coal-fired plant in Oakville by 2022, or possibly sooner pending those stricter rules on greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental groups that want Ameren to reduce its reliance on coal are hailing the decision. The Sierra Club sued Ameren Corp. in federal court earlier this year seeking to compel the company to reduce air pollution at the Meramec facility and two other area power plants. The lawsuit also asks a court to levy financial penalties for past violations.
Ameren's board of directors approved the Meramec closure in late June.