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Ameren gets OK to sell Ill. coal plants to Dynegy

CHICAGO (AP) -- Ameren Corp. received federal permission to sell five Illinois coal-fired power plants to Houston-based Dynegy Inc., but the deal hinges on whether Dynegy can get a pollution-control waiver from the state.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the sale late Friday, Dynegy spokeswoman Katy Sullivan said. But though that was necessary and important, the sale could unravel unless the company gets approval from the Illinois Pollution Control Board to delay installing soot-control equipment required under state rules, she said.

St. Louis-based Ameren received a five-year waiver, giving it until 2020 to install upgrades, after claiming financial hardship and claiming it might have to close some of its plants and cut hundreds of jobs.

But the state panel refused to transfer the waiver to Dynegy, saying it had to make the case on its own merits. The company filed for a waiver this summer, and the board is expected to make a decision next month.

Dynegy has said the same conditions exist if it buys the plants, including lower electricity prices driven, in part, by competition from natural gas plants.

Environmental groups have objected, saying that pollution-control upgrades are needed at the decades-old plants, and that Dynegy was a willing buyer so should not be able to claim hardship.

The companies say they expect to complete the sale by the end of the year if the board approves the waiver. Otherwise, Sullivan said, Dynegy's board of directors "would have to reevaluate" whether the sale could proceed.