Nixon delays Taum Sauk lawsuit

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Nearly a month ago, Attorney General Jay Nixon said he would soon file criminal or civil charges against Ameren Corp. because of the Taum Sauk reservoir collapse. No suit has been filed, and a Nixon spokesman said the legal situation has changed, although he wouldn't elaborate.

Nixon is still preparing to bring legal action against Ameren, said spokesman Scott Holste, but a delay has occurred since Nixon spoke to The Associated Press about the case April 20.

"I won't go into any detail but since then, the situation has changed, as it often does in litigation," Holste wrote in an e-mail. He refused to elaborate several times on what has changed.

On Monday, Holste said Nixon was considering a report on the collapse released by May 2 by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, which regulated the power plant.

Nixon spokesman John Fougere wouldn't say if Nixon is negotiating a legal settlement with Ameren that could prevent litigation.

Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said the utility company's attorneys have had several face-to-face meetings with Nixon's staff, but no settlement negotiations are underway.

"No settlement discussions have taken place. No settlement proposal has been offered," Gallagher wrote in an e-mail.

Ameren's Taum Sauk reservoir collapsed Dec. 14, sending more than one billion gallons of water rushing through the nearby Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park.

The deluge injured park superintendent Jerry Toops along with his wife and three children. Ameren reached a settlement with the Toops family, although neither party will disclose specifics of the deal.

Several tourism-based businesses surrounding the state park have also been affected by the collapse. U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., toured the area this month and said she's worried fewer tourists will visit the area this summer.

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