Satterlee, Grever Prevail for Utility Client in Appellate Court

The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that SHB client City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri, can construct a new $800-million power plant in a decision that may put an end to the Sierra Club's battle to keep the facility from operation. City Utilities needs Southwest Power Station Unit 2 to meet the electricity needs of southwestern Missouri over the next 20 years. The Sierra Club has been fighting the facility's construction both in court and at the ballot box as part of its national campaign to prevent construction of coal-fired power plants. The appellate decision is one of the first in the nation in which a court has ruled in favor of a utility on every single objection raised by the Sierra Club.

The court's opinion marks the culmination of a nearly three-year legal dispute over the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) permit to construct the power plant. Even though MDNR's permit requires City Utilities to install state-of-the-art pollution-control technologies, the Sierra Club opposed the permit on the grounds that the air pollution emission levels allowed by the permit were inadequate to protect human health and the environment.

The Sierra Club originally appealed issuance of the permit to the Missouri Air Conservation Commission, which conducted a full evidentiary hearing. The advocacy group hired technical experts from around the country to challenge the permit's emission limits, control technology selection, and health and welfare review, but City Utilities and MDNR demonstrated to the Commission that the permit was appropriate and sufficiently protective of health and air quality in the region.

Sierra Club continued its appeal through the Circuit Court of Greene County, Missouri, which affirmed the Commission's order upholding the permit, to the Southern District Court of Appeals. In a complete victory for City Utilities, the Court of Appeals rejected each and every challenge raised by the Sierra Club.

SHB Partners Terry Satterlee and Tom Grever litigated the case on behalf of City Utilities.