by Peter Rosenquist, MCE Water Policy Intern
With the adoption of Senate Amendment 1 to House Bill 1713, followed closely by the passing of the bill, the future of the Clean Water Commission rests with Gov. Jay Nixon. Without his veto, the Clean Water Commission will be stripped of its capacity to fairly represent Missourians’ rights to clean water. The amendment seeks to remove the criterion that limits the number of industrial agriculture, industry, or mining representatives to two of the seven seats—while also eliminating the mandate that four of the seats be occupied by representatives for the people of Missouri. With this change, the balance of power will be shifted away from all Missourians who rely on effective polluter oversight to access clean water for drinking and recreating in favor of the very industries the Commission regulates. See media coverage of the bill’s implications on St. Louis Public Radio and the Columbia Daily Tribune.
The Clean Water Commission holds the authority in Missouri to implement the federal Clean Water Act and Missouri Clean Water Law. Its responsibilities include prevention and control of potential sources of pollution, the development of Water Quality Standards, the enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and the certification of wastewater treatment facilities and large-scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The current makeup of its seven members is designed to allow for the input of industry representatives, but requires four members who represent the public and the best interests of Missourians. If HB1713 becomes law, it will pave the way for a Commission with zero public members.
Recent decisions by the Commission upset some members of the agricultural sector and, as a result, we are witnessing this attempt on the regulatory authority. An article from the Columbia Tribune descries how five hundred and twenty-one permits have been brought before the Commission and of them only two have been challenged. Of those two lonesome permits, only one for a CAFO near Trenton was denied. The basis of the rejection rested on the fact that it would be located in a 100-year flood plain and that there were doubts as to the capacity of the permit applicants to act as a “continuing authority” that would be responsible for permanent maintenance and modernization of the operation. Without the requirement to reasonably prove this capacity, we run the risk of operations like the one proposed in Trenton going awry and our waters being polluted with tons of manure while these shell corporations shrug their shoulders and avoid their responsibility to clean up the spill. Out-of-state or, increasingly, out-of-country corporations establish these entities with limited assets. In an event that compromises our waters, such as a breached waste lagoon, there is no assurance they have assets to finance the necessary recovery efforts.
The state legislature passed Amendment 1 to HB1713 changing the makeup and compromising the integrity of the Clean Water Commission on May 5. Unfortunately for the people of Missouri, our waters, and the tenets of democracy as a whole, this dangerous amendment was not given any kind of public consideration. It was added to the bill on the Senate floor with no public hearing or public debate. The integrity of Clean Water Commission and its ability to protect the waters of Missouri for people, animals, fish, and other aquatic life have been compromised. MCE strongly encourages you to contact Governor Nixon and ask him to veto this dangerous legislation.
Office of Governor Jay Nixon
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: (573) 751-3222