Climate Change, Clean Energy Programs
On February 10, 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court sided with Great Rivers and ruled that the Missouri legislature had illegally exempted Empire District Electric from Missouri's Renewable Energy law, before the voters had voted on the initiative. The Supreme Court held that, "The legislature could not preemptively negate the effect of the initiative before it had even been voted on by the people and make the people's vote a meaningless act." Great Rivers represented Renew Missouri in the Supreme Court.
Land Use Program
On August 26, 2014, the St. Louis County Circuit Court ordered the St. Louis County Board of Elections to put the Olivette, Missouri Parks Initiative on the ballot. Citizens of Olivette had successfully conducted an initiative petition drive for an amendment to the City Charter that would prevent the City disposing of or building on public park land without a vote of the people. The St. Louis County Board of Elections certified that the initiative petition obtained a sufficient number of valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. In their suit, citizens argued that the City of Olivette and its City Council defied the duty imposed on them by the Missouri Constitution to provide at once by ordinance for submission of the amendment to the voters. The Court agreed with the citizens.
Climate Change Program
On January 16, 2013, a Missouri Appeals Court upheld Public Service Commission Rules outlining how the state's major energy efficiency law is to be implemented. The Missouri Office of Public Counsel, Ameren Missouri, and Kansas City Power and Light had challenged had challenged the Public Service Commission's rules over the issue of how utilities may recover costs of lower revenues due to decreased electricity sales as a result of energy efficiency programs. Great Rivers represented Renew Missouri and intervened in the case, and the Court upheld the PSC's rules.
Climate Change, Public Health, Clean Air, Clean Water
On August 1, 2012, the Missouri Public Service Commission approved Ameren Missouri's new energy efficiency programs. These programs will result in the most significant energy efficiency efforts ever made in Missouri. Ameren agreed to invest $147 million over the next three years into energy efficiency programs, which will result in $500 million in customer benefits over the next twenty years. Residential and business customers will be eligible to receive financial assistance to make changes that will lower their energy consumption and electric bills.
In late October Great Rivers' clients reached a similar agreement with KCP&L-Greater Missouri Operations (GMO, formerly Aquila). GMO plans to spend $39 million with benefits of $149 million. The utilities get to keep a share of these benefits Great Rivers' attorney Henry Robertson has taken part in hundreds of hours of meetings and conference calls with the Public Service Commission staff, Ameren employees, industrial energy users, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. In those meetings Robertson, who represented Renew Missouri, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club, pressed Ameren and the PSC to strengthen Ameren's energy efficiency programs while protecting ratepayers.
These agreements represent real progress, but they are not ideal. They follow the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act of 2009 (MEEIA), a law designed to give utilities incentives but not obligations. Ameren and GMO are rewarded more handsomely than utilities in other states that are achieving much more. This matters because they are, after all, spending ratepayers' money. Customers who do not directly participate in the programs will see a slight increase in bills in the short term, but the energy savings should pile up and bills go down. Meanwhile, everyone benefits as the need to build expensive new generating plants or retrofit old ones is deferred or even eliminated.
The challenge now is to leverage the energy savings into getting the utilities to shut down their oldest, most polluting power plants. Missouri could also benefit from a law of the kind that exists in Illinois and many other states that requires utilities to reduce the demand on their systems by at least a fixed amount (e.g. 0.5%, then1%, the 1.5%) each year; such a law is called an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard or Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.
Clean Water, Public Health
Great Rivers' Work Results in State-Wide Changes Concerning Coal Waste
In 2011, Great Rivers opposed a permit the Missouri Department of Natural Resources planned to issue to the Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. (“AECI”), concerning its 39-year old coal-fired power plant in New Madrid, on 522 acres on the Mississippi River. For decades AECI placed the coal wastes in an unlined landfill on the Mississippi River, and, the DNR did not require AECI to monitor the water for pollutants which come from coal combustion waste including selenium, mercury, and arsenic, which are known to cause environmental harm and can represent a human health risk. In 1997, the DNR required monitoring at new ash disposal sites, but not at older sites.
Over the course of several months, we urged the DNR to set limits on the waste that can be placed in an unlined landfill on the Mississippi River, identify the types and quantities of discharges from the landfill and reduce the potential that the discharges will reach groundwater.
In response to our efforts, DNR added special conditions to the permit, requiring AECI to implement a groundwater monitoring program and to determine the impact of the unlined coal ash on both groundwater and surface water. Furthermore, DNR stated that it will require all utilities to implement this monitoring on all old coal ash disposal sites across the state.
This is a terrific result but it is appalling this monitoring has not been required before this year.
Public Health, Clean Air
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center Prevails in Missouri Court of Appeals,
On Tuesday, October 26, 2010, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District held that a case against a smelter may move forward. The Court ruled that the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the Concerned Citizens’ case as a sanction for not responding fully to overly broad discovery requests.
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed a petition on behalf of the Concerned Citizens in November, 2007, alleging that the City of Crystal City violated the Sunshine, or Open Records law, as well as other statutes. The Concerned Citizens seek to void a contract and lease made by city officials allowing the development of a pig-iron ore smelter in Crystal City. The case will now go back to the trial court for further proceedings on the 16-count amended petition.
Concerned Citizens for Crystal City, et al., v. City of Crystal City, Mo., et al, and Wings Enterprises, Inc., 334 S.W.3d 519 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010).
Public Health, Clean Air, Clean Water
In August, 2009, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) terminated all preparations for a hearing on AmerenUE’s proposed Callaway 2 nuclear power plant. This comes very close to pulling the plug on a project that was already on life support. Ameren had announced it was suspending its effort to build Callaway 2 after the Missouri legislature refused to repeal a 1976 voter-passed law that forbids utilities to charge ratepayers for construction work in progress (CWIP). Great Rivers joined with Ameren and the two other intervening parties (the Missouri Office of Public Counsel and Missourians Against Higher Utility Rates) in filing a Settlement Agreement in which the parties consented to termination with conditions that would, in essence, allow the parties to pick up from where they stand now if the license proceedings are ever reactivated. The settlement also protects the public’s right to participate by allowing new parties to join the case in the future. The Licensing Board’s order approved the settlement.
In September, 2008, a United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri sided with Great Rivers and held that the City of St. Louis and the city-owned Lambert-St. Louis International Airport violated federal asbestos standards when they demolished 99 asbestos-laden buildings in Bridgeton, Missouri, without removing the asbestos before demolition. Instead, the airport authority used the controversial “wet-method,” meaning it sprayed the buildings with water in an effort to contain the asbestos.
Former residents believe their health was threatened by the asbestos released during the demolitions. This marks the first time that a federal court has held a city liable for violating federal asbestos safety standards.
Families for Asbestos Compliance, Testing and Safety v. City of St. Louis, MO, et al., WL 4279569, U.S. Dist. Ct., E. D. Mo., Slip Op. Sept. 15, 2008.
Clean Energy and Air; Global Warming
Kansas City Power and Light (KCPL), a large regulated utility in Missouri, commenced a series of “workshops” in 2004 in which it impressed upon the staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) the need for a new coal-fired power plant that would emit tons of global warming causing pollutants. The PSC approved an agreement filed by KCPL in 2005, in which the large industrial users agreed not to challenge the rate increases caused by the construction of a new plant. On behalf of a local citizens group, Concerned Citizens for Platte County, and the Sierra Club, Great Rivers filed suit in state court arguing the PSC did not have the authority to approve the agreement because there were no laws allowing for an agreement to be filed after “workshops.” The trial court held the PSC did have the authority, but the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, sided with Great Rivers and held the PSC lacked jurisdiction. This case resulted in an agreement in which KCPL agreed to reduce global warming causing emissions at all of its plants by 20%, a huge amount for a utility to agree to reduce.
State ex rel. Sierra Club and Concerned Citizens of Plate County v. Missouri Public Service Commission,--- S.W.3d ----, 2007 WL 581652 (Mo.App. 2007).
Preservation of Parks
Buehler Park is a beloved park in Rolla, Missouri, named after Henry Buehler, a former citizen of Rolla and the State Geologist from 1908-1944. Dr. Buehler’s knowledge of mineral resources turned the State of Missouri’s $15 million mineral industry into a $75 million industry by 1944. In 1958, the Rolla Chamber of Commerce, seeking to honor Dr. Buehler, deeded Buehler Park to the City of Rolla. In 2004, the City of Rolla entered into a contract to sell the land to a developer who would put barbecued rib restaurants on it, and in 2005, the Citizens to Preserve Buehler Park, filed suit to stop the sale. Great Rivers has represented them ever since, in four court proceedings, as the case goes up and down through the trial and appellate courts. In our first victory, the appellate court reversed the trial court and agreed with Great Rivers that the Citizens group does have the legal right to sue over the proposed sale.
Citizens for Preservation of Buehler Park v. City of Rolla, 187 S.W.3d 359 (Mo.App. 2006).
In 2007, the Court of Appeals held that the deed conveying the property to the City created a dedication of property for use as a park.
Citizens for Preservation of Buehler Park v. City of Rolla, 202 S.W.3d 635 (Mo.App. S.D. 2007).
Protection of Flood Plains and Wetlands
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to build a 1,000 year “super-levee” on the Missouri River at Jefferson City, Missouri. The levee would have many serious negative environmental impacts, including aggravated flood risk, destruction of natural wetlands and reduced habitat for endangered species. On behalf of the Sierra Club, Great Rivers challenged the permit issued to the Corps by itself on the ground that the Corps failed to consider the cumulative impacts of the levee—i.e., the negative impacts the levee would have—and in May, 2007, a United States District Court sided with Great Rivers.
Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., 494 F.Supp.2d 1090, (W.D.Mo. 2007).
Although a district court first held the Sierra Club did not have the legal right to file suit, Great Rivers persuaded the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that the Sierra Club did have that right.
Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 446 F.3d 808 (8th Cir. 2006).
Right to Appeal
For over 25 years Missouri law had been interpreted to allow neighbors to appeal, to the Clean Water Commission, the issuance of permits to polluters. In 2000, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, abruptly ended this practice when a neighbor challenged a permit issued to a huge factory farm that planned to move in next door to the neighbor. Great Rivers first persuaded the Eastern District Court of Appeals to hold that the law had been correctly interpreted for 25 years by the courts in this case.
Missouri Coalition for the Environment v. Herrmann, 2003 WL 21488873 (Mo.App. 2003).
In 2004, we succeeded in persuading the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn the Western District Court of Appeals case and hold that neighbors have the right to appeal permits to the state Clean Water Commission when huge factory farms move in and destroy nearby water quality.
Missouri Coalition for the Environment v. Herrmann, 142 S.W.3d 700 (Mo.banc 2004).
Water Quality Standards
The State of Missouri is required to implement water quality standards that comply with the federal Clean Water Act. For years, the Environmental Protection Agency looked the other way while Missouri failed to put such standards in place. Great Rivers assisted the Missouri Coalition for the Environment in its lawsuit against the EPA for failing to hold Missouri accountable. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement in 2004 in which the EPA will enforce the standards if Missouri fails to have them in place by 2006.