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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Unsettling billboards showing children struggling to breathe are popping up throughout the metro region.

The Sierra Club's message is that the country needs to reduce its dependence on coal energy. Emily Rosenwasser, Beyond Coal Campaign press secretary said,

"As Ameren seeks more space to dump its coal ash, we choose to highlight the price that St. Louis families already pay in health costs and on their bills for the utility's coal-fired power plants. The threat of coal ash catastrophe puts residents at risk of even more costs associated with burning coal and dumping coal ash," she said.

While this is a national campaign, in Missouri its campaign is laser-focused on Ameren and to a lesser extent, Kansas City Power and Light, and other smaller utilities.

Andy Knott is another Sierra Club spokesperson.

"The point is, Ameren's coal plants around St. Louis are some of the largest sources of air pollution in the region and we all pay for that in different ways and one way we pay for that is increased health costs asthma, hospital emissions, premature death," Andy Knott said.

That is factually wrong, according to a spokesperson with Ameren. Warren Wood, vice president of external communications for the power company said.

"I understand Sierra Club wants to shut down coal fired plants but if you look at the EPA regulations that are fully protective of human health, we operate at levels far below those numbers," he added. "This year alone we will be investing another $170 million at Labadie to further reduce the emissions at that plant. We have the largest energy efficiency program in the state's history underway right now."

Last month the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit alleging Ameren's three power plants have violated the clean air act nearly 8000 times.

Not true at all, according to Ameren.

Wood also took exception to the Sierra Club, saying Kansas City Power and Light was doing more when it comes to energy efficiency.

"[KCPL] just announced their purchase of 400 megawatts of new wind energy. When they are done with that they will have nine times the amount of wind power that Ameren does," Knott said.

"We have a larger energy efficiency program, a larger solar project, larger landfill to gas energy project, more hydro power. I'll let the facts speak for themselves," Wood responded.

The timing of the billboard campaign isn't random. Ameren's shareholders come to town April 24th and the posters are strategically placed so investors can't miss them.

The campaign was also timed to coincide with a meeting Tuesday Night regarding Ameren's plans to build a coal ash landfill near its Labadie plant. The proposed landfill is in a flood plain. Ameren says it is state of the art and environmentally sound.

The meeting takes place from 7 to 9 in the lower level of the Knights of Columbus Hall, 1121 Columbus Lane, Washington, Mo.

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