The company marked the opening of the new rail spur with the ceremonial driving of a "golden spike," a visit by Ameren and Union Pacific executives and local dignitaries, and a tour of the project\-including a short ride over the newly laid tracks.
When the Franklin County, Mo., plant was built in the early 1970s, it burned mostly Illinois coal to generate electricity. As a result, its rail access faced to the east off of Union Pacific's mainline. However, to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act's stricter regulations on sulfur dioxide emissions, the plant was converted in the mid-1990s to burn low-sulfur western coal.
As a result, each 140-car train had to go past the east-facing entrance and back up into the plant, adding about four hours to the delivery time and slowing down other rail traffic.
"This project will allow us to get our fuel to the plant in a more timely manner, ensuring the plant's competitiveness for years to come," said Labadie Plant Manager Dave Fox.
"That's good news for the people of Franklin County who depend on us as a critical part of their tax base, and for the 300 people who work at the plant. It means secure jobs in Franklin County," he said.
In 2005, the plant paid $9.8 million in property taxes. Of that amount, $2.7 million stayed in Franklin County, with the remainder distributed on a pole- mile basis to other Missouri Counties. Plant employees are also very active in the local community; AmerenUE has been the top fund-raiser for the Franklin County Area United Way for four of the past five years, and the Labadie Plant contributes nearly half of the company's total contribution to Franklin County.
AmerenUE began acquiring property for the project about two years ago, Fox said, with construction beginning in July. The company worked with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure the project did not harm the environment or wildlife.
The project also used 450,000 tons of compacted bottom ash\-a three-year-supply\- as structural fill to build up the 1,200-foot rail berm. Bottom ash is a byproduct of the coal combustion process, and is widely used in a variety of construction-related applications.
"We strive to be a good environmental steward and find beneficial uses for our coal byproducts," Fox said. In September, the plant opened a concrete packaging facility that will recycle more than 60,000 tons of fly and bottom ash annually into two million bags of high-quality concrete mix. In 2005, the plant burned a record 11 million tons of coal to generate nearly 20 million megawatthours of electricity.
AmerenUE is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation. The Ameren companies serve 2.4 million electric customers and nearly one million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Missouri and Illinois.
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