South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Sierra Club’s anti-coal resolution unanimously rejected by Mehlville school board

Felton made original request for proposal to be on agenda

After listening to a debate between representatives of Ameren Missouri and the Sierra Club last week, the Mehlville Board of Education unanimously rejected the Sierra Club’s anti-coal resolution.

If the Mehlville board had approved the resolution, it would have been one of the first school boards in the country and the first elected body in Missouri to sign on to the proposal, which pushes Ameren to leave behind the “devastation and destruction” of coal power plants in favor of cleaner energy.

Local group Clean Land, Air and Water, or CLAW, brought the proposal to the board in May due to the proximity of Rogers Elementary School to the Meramec Energy Center, Ameren’s coal-fired power plant in Oakville, which opened in 1953.

Rogers Elementary opened in 1991.

The 7-0 denial of the resolution came despite some board members’ vocal support of clean energy — and some members indicating in the past that they would support the resolution if it came to a vote.

Although everyone on the board voted against it, some members noted that they hope Ameren closes Meramec earlier than 2022, its current slated closing date.

Board member Samantha Stormer lives near the Meramec plant, and her son attended Rogers Elementary.

She noted her support for the heightened awareness that CLAW and the Sierra Club have brought to Oakville about the coal plant, but agreed with the consensus of the other members that the resolution did not fall under the purview of the board.

“I have a real problem asking a company in our own community to shut down and possibly lose 200 to 250 jobs,” she said. “That’s very hard for me.”

The strongly worded resolution, which called for Ameren to end coal production and increase its reliance on renewable energy like Kansas City Power & Light, was “not sufficient for our school board,” board member Kathleen Eardley said.

“We’re a governing body concerned about children, and this is very divisive wording — and it’s not protecting our kids,” she said.

Board Secretary Lori Trakas noted that the district built Rogers long after Meramec opened, so “it is inappropriate and somewhat disingenuous” for the environmental groups to complain about the school’s location now.

“More importantly, however, I do not believe it is appropriate for this board to consider — let alone pass — a resolution promoting the agenda of an unrelated political-action group,” she said.

Some of the board members noted that in the debate, they had not heard any specific data on health and safety risks to Rogers Elementary, or the district’s next-nearest school two miles away, Point Elementary School.

“I heard that we don’t have any definitive information about the effect of this on Rogers and Point,” said board member Larry Felton, who had originally asked for the resolution to appear on the board’s agenda.

Board member Jean Pretto noted that the district currently has three solar panels held up while the district waits in line for solar rebates from Ameren and suggested that the utility could help the district with that project. The district already has solar panels installed on five schools through a leasing program with solar vendor StraightUp Solar.

“Let’s give the Public Service Commission a push and see if we can’t ask the Public Service Commission or legislators to move in the right direction — I think we need them to do that, not us,” Pretto said. “And maybe you can cut us a deal on some more solar panels.”

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