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UPDATE - FERC upholds decision to rebuild 408-MW Taum Sauk

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled it acted properly in authorizing utility AmerenUE to start reconstruction of the breached upper reservoir of the 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project in Missouri.

FERC responded Dec. 20 to a petition brought by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Sierra Club, and American Rivers to stop reconstruction of the project's upper reservoir, which failed in December 2005.

FERC was unconvinced by the groups' argument that it should stay an Aug. 15 order by the director of the commission's Office of Energy Projects authorizing reconstruction. The groups argued the commission erred in limiting the scope of an environmental assessment to the immediate effects of the proposed reconstruction, without considering environmental effects associated with future project operations.

The commission said its staff properly restricted the scope of the environmental assessment to the effects associated with rebuilding the reservoir.

In all but extraordinary circumstances, FERC said, when a licensee is applying for relicense, the commission has permitted the licensee to undertake necessary project repairs prior to the decision on the relicense application. AmerenUE has indicated it plans to file an application for relicense, which is due by June 30, 2008.

�Thus, Ameren's request to rebuild the upper reservoir was consistent with the FPA (Federal Power Act) and the terms of its license, and staff properly approved it without requiring that the reconstruction await a decision on relicensing,� FERC said.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Sierra Club, and American Rivers made some of the same arguments as those presented in federal court by a separate group, the Missouri Parks Association. The association filed suit against FERC and AmerenUE Dec. 11 accusing FERC of failure to conduct an adequate environmental review of a plan to rebuild the breached upper reservoir. (HNN 12/13/07)

The Missouri Parks Association asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to permanently enjoin FERC and AmerenUE from proceeding with reconstruction until FERC prepares an adequate environmental assessment, whose sufficiency is to be determined by the court.

AmerenUE and the state of Missouri signed a settlement agreement in November in which AmerenUE will pay $177.35 million in compensation and remediation of the 2005 breach of the upper reservoir. (HNN 11/29/07)

Taum Sauk (No. 2277) has not operated since the reservoir's ring dam breached Dec. 14, 2005, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water down the Black River, injuring nine people, and damaging property, including Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. A Missouri Public Service Commission investigation cited a failure of utility management for the breach.

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