From: Christopher Leonard, Associated Press
Published October 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Ameren to Pay Largest Fine in FERC History for Missouri Reservoir Collapse

ST. LOUIS — Ameren Corp. agreed to pay federal regulators a $15 million fine for the reservoir collapse that unleashed more than a billion gallons of water, destroying a state park and injuring a family last year, officials said Monday.

It was the largest fine of its kind levied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, officials said. The heftiest fine paid in the past was $500,000, officials said.

Ameren, which operated the reservoir, violated a number of federal regulations at the Taum Sauk hydroelectric plant before it overflowed and collapsed Dec. 14, 2005, FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher said at a news conference Monday.

Ameren knew of critical problems at the reservoir for months before the collapse, but did not fix them or close down the hydroelectric plant over cost concerns, according to FERC's investigation into the collapse.

"The bottom line is that this incident could have been avoided," Kelliher said.

Ameren agreed to create the new position of chief dam safety engineer, who will be responsible for dam safety at all of its hydroelectric plants as part of the settlement.

Ameren did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday afternoon.

The settlement will have no bearing on a separate agreement Ameren is negotiating with Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Kelliher said.

Gov. Matt Blunt released a statement Monday saying Ameren's settlement with FERC won't stop the state from seeking its own compensation.

"It does not even begin to address the damages and environmental harm caused to the state of Missouri by the breach," Blunt said in the statement.

After the collapse of the reservoir near Lesterville, about 120 miles southwest of St. Louis, the deluge devastated a nearby state park and injured a family of five.

Source: Associated Press

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