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April 26, 2011
Resolution on Coal Waste Management Wins Substantial Shareowner Support
    by Robert Kropp

Forty-six percent of Ameren shareowners back a resolution by the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment for greater disclosure on coal waste management.


The management by companies of coal combustion waste (CCW) has become an especially pressing issue since 2008, when a dam breach at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash pond released 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge over more than 300 acres in eastern Tennessee. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new regulations for the storage of CCW, "To ensure that catastrophic releases such as occurred at the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA's) Kingston, Tennessee facility do not occur and that other types of damage cases associated with CCR (coal combustion residuals) surface impoundments and landfills are prevented."

The Missouri-based energy company Ameren is a major producer of CCW. According to the members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) that filed a shareowner resolution addressing CCW management by Ameren, "Coal combustion represents two-thirds (67%) of Ameren's generating capacity in Missouri, and a significant portion (33%) of Ameren's national generation capacity."

The shareowner coalition, led by the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investing, requested in its resolution that Ameren "prepare a report on the company's efforts, above and beyond current compliance, to identify and reduce environmental and health hazards associated with past and present handling of coal combustion waste, and how those efforts may reduce legal, reputational and other risks to the company's finances and operations."

In recommending that shareowners reject the proposal, Ameren's Board stated, "Ameren's subsidiaries have safely managed CCBs (coal combustion byproducts) at its facilities for decades." Furthermore, the Board continued, "Ameren's subsidiaries have already prepared reports which provide extensive, detailed information about such subsidiaries' management of CCBs."

Despite the Board's recommendation, the shareowner proposal received an impressive 46% of the vote at last week's annual meeting of the company. Ameren CEO Thomas Voss acknowledged concerns around CCW management, and told shareowners that the company's upcoming sustainability report "will be responsive to your questions."

Sister Barbara Jennings, coordinator for the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investing, said following the meeting, "I just hope it's specific and honest."

 

 
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