Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Nominate an Environmental Champion Today for a Lewis C. Green Award

We invite you to nominate an environmental champion for a Lewis C. Green Environmental Service Award! Individuals and organizations are eligible. Selected recipients will be recognized by Great Rivers Environmental Law Center at the Lewis C. Green Awards Party on Sunday, September 22, 2019 at the Whittemore House.

Nominees should have a demonstrated long-term commitment to preservation of the environment.

All nominations are due by April 1, 2019.

CLICK HERE to submit a nomination today!

A list of past recipients of the Lewis C. Green Environmental Service Award is available here.

Great Rivers Calls for Increased Environmental Protection in Congress’ Water Resource Development Acts

On February 12, 2019, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center submitted comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) on a proposal for implementing Congress’ Water Resources Development Acts of 2018 and 2016. The Water Resources Development Acts authorize a wide variety of water resource projects and policies administered by the Army Corps.

In its comments Great Rivers urged the Army Corps to ensure that federal investments in the nation’s water resources protect and restore the environment, as well as increase the resiliency of people and wildlife to climate change. The increasing storms, floods, and droughts now being brought about by climate change make it more important than ever that the Army Corps use modern and environmentally sound approaches when planning water resources projects.

The comments strongly support the use of natural infrastructure solutions to reduce flood and storm damages, and call for an increased commitment from the Army Corps to using these solutions. Particular recommendations urge the Army Corps to state explicitly that temporary interests in land are not appropriate for restoration, or for natural infrastructure projects, as these temporary interests would negatively impact long-term ecological sustainability. Additionally, Great Rivers encourages the removal of infrastructure projects that no longer serve a federal interest, in order to open up opportunities for ecosystem restoration that will benefit people and wildlife. Further, Great Rivers suggests the Corps be open to considering modifications to a project, up to and including removal of the project entirely, if the change would improve the overall quality of the environment.

Great Rivers’ comments address Army Corps water resources projects across the United States. These projects include restoration, flood control, shoreline protection, and fish and wildlife management.

Finally, to ensure full transparency, Great Rivers proposed that the public be given at least 60 days to review and comment on the scope and impact of water resource development projects. Great Rivers also made suggestions for how the Army Corps could ensure its compliance with requirements imposed under related environmental laws.

A summary of the comments follows, and the full document is available for viewing here.

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Summary of comments on “Implementation Guidance for Water Resources Development Acts”

  • In the midst of climate change and its environmental impact, it is important that the US Army Corps of Engineers use environmentally sound techniques so as not to compound existing environmental issues
  • “Permanent interest in real property”
    • Temporary interests in land are not appropriate for mitigation, restoration, or natural infrastructure
  • Strongly supports the increased use of natural infrastructure solutions to reduce flood and storm damages (rather than traditional)
    • Examples of natural infrastructure include: natural hydrology, living shorelines, or sediment diversions (in lieu of dams)
    • Must demonstrate a commitment to seriously, intensely, and carefully exploring the use of natural infrastructure
      • Conduct cost-benefit analysis of natural infrastructure alternatives so they can be meaningfully compared with the costs/benefits of traditional infrastructure
      • Share successful examples of natural infrastructure measures
    • Establish a process for the general public to comment and review the scope of the environmental impact of water resource development projects (minimum of 60 days)
      • Public must have meaningful information on which to comment
    • If working with a non-Federal sponsor, should be an interim review process during which the Corps can assess the sponsor’s compliance with substantive and procedural legal requirements before moving to the next stage
    • Strong encourages the disposition and removal of Corps infrastructure projects that no longer serve a federal interest à to open up opportunities for ecosystem restoration that will benefit both people and wildlife
      • Increase transparency à provide opportunities for meaningful public comment
      • Disposition studies should consider modifications that would improve the overall quality of the environment, including removal of the project or separable element of a project
        • Separate authorization should not be required to pursue removal
      • Wishes for the Army Corps to prioritize full compliance with mitigation requirements and policies
        • Avoid adverse environmental impacts in project planning
        • Expanding use of natural infrastructure and non-structural alternatives
        • Minimize unavoidable adverse impacts
        • Compensatory mitigation
        • Proposed actions: create a single guidance document to improve mitigation planning and compliance

 

5 Reasons Why I Love Clean Energy

Guest column by Dan McFarlane

As we approach Valentine’s Day, those of us with a significant other or spouse are usually thinking of some sort of gesture or combination of things that will show their love and appreciation for their special someone. But all of us can show some love for the environment, and specifically renewable energy sources, and not just on Valentine’s Day. So in honor of Cupid’s day in the limelight, here are a few reasons why I love that good clean energy.

  1. Most obviously, it’s better for the planet! Show mother earth some love, and support solar, wind, and geothermal energy (just to name a few) energy efforts.Piggy Bank
  2. It’s cheaper! We are finding out more and more that as technology improves, the costs of clean energy are going down compared to fossil fuels like the oil industry. Save money on gas and spend it on a trip for two!
  3. Looking specifically at wind farms, some areas of Texas that have relied on oil booms to sustain livelihoods are finding that wind provides a better source of income and brings higher job satisfaction than working on an oil field. If people are happier at work, you can bet they’ll be happier at home with their loved ones!
  4. For the gearhead in your life, electric cars like the new Tesla model are insanely fast and fun to drive! Battery life continues to increase and charging stations are popping up all over, plus who wouldn’t love to not have to yell over the sound of a loud engine as you drive to dinner?
  5. Lastly, we can all participate in this new age of renewable, clean energy. Whether its a solar array on your roof, a geothermal system to heat and cool your home, or investing in a hybrid vehicle, a personal and visible effort can be made to show Mother Earth a little more love!

Have a happy Valentine’s Day and remember that we’re all deserving of love no matter our circumstances!

Dan McFarlane Pic

Written by Dan McFarlane, a member of Great Rivers’ Young Professionals Board

Chalaun Lomax Joins Great Rivers Environmental Law Center as Spring Intern

Chalaun Lomax, a senior at Washington University, will be joining Great Rivers as an intern for the spring semester! Originally from West Chester, Ohio, Chalaun is double majoring in history and anthropology. Chalaun has previously completed internships with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Washington University’s Office of Alumni and Development. She has also researched gender representation in the United States Foreign Service and has completed an externship at the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. She is so excited to work with Great Rivers this semester, and we are equally excited to have her working with us!

At Washington University, Chalaun is a staff reporter for the student newspaper, as well as a mentor in Strive for College, an organization that connects aspiring college students with free, one-on-one, online mentoring through the entire college admissions and financial aid application process. As an executive board member of Strive for College, Chalaun co-leads a classroom of high school juniors and guides them through curriculum preparing them for the college application process. She serves as a member of both the Student Conduct Board and the Undergraduate Council and is currently a member of the Campus Interview Team at WU Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Volunteer Spotlight: Segolene Renaze

Segolene Renaze serves on the Young Professional Board at Great Rivers. She got involved at its inception in 2016 as a way of giving back to this great organization after having interned with Great Rivers the year before.
After finishing law school at Washington University where she will graduate from her LL.M. in May 2019, Segolene will take the NY bar exam to become a lawyer. She enjoys volunteering with different organizations such as the Sierra Club as a member of the Eastern Missouri Group Executive Commmittee, and Washington University’s Environment and Energy Law Society. Although she misses her home in Brittany, France, she likes Missouri’s outdoors very much and loves hiking with her husband and friends, going on float trips, as well as horse riding and occasional rock climbing.
We asked Segolene a few questions so you can get to know her better:
What book is currently on your nightstand?
Civil Action – a great non-fiction book written by Jonathan Harr on an environmental civil suit in the 70s, I definitely recommend it!
Who is your favorite superhero?
My parents ☺
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
It might sound cheesy but if I could have the power to give empathy to people who need it most – I believe many problems would be solved 😉
What was the best vacation you ever went on?
A bike trip with my sisters across the Loire Valley castles in France.
What is your favorite memory of Great Rivers?
Getting ice cream with Kathleen after a hard day’s work!
What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
I am French but I don’t drink wine!
What is your favorite way to relax after a long day?
Taking a nice walk with my husband.
What fictional place would you most like to go?
Hogwarts!

Franklin County Residents Speak Against Concrete Plant Near Shaw Nature Reserve at Hearing

A dedicated group of Franklin County residents spoke yesterday at a public hearing regarding a developer’s request to re-zone land near their homes so he can build a concrete plant. Great Rivers has represented a group of citizens on this matter since 2014.

Landvatter Enterprises, LLC, proposes to build a ready-mix concrete plant on tree-covered hills just 600 feet from the Shaw Nature Reserve in Franklin County. There are dozens of houses and apartments in the area between the Nature Reserve and the proposed plant. The homeowners believe the proposed plant will cause them to breathe in dust, suffer from noise and increased traffic, and believe that the wildlife, fish, birds, flora and fauna in the Nature Reserve will also suffer from the plant.

A handful of residents who could make the hearing at 12:30 pm on a weekday urged the Franklin County Comission to reject the developer’s request for rezoning. They cited the impact a concrete plant would have on their quality of life, interrupting the quiet and tranquil atmosphere of their neighborhood, and concerns that the air pollution from the plant would negatively impact their health. Additionally, they expressed concern over how the plant would harm local wildlife. One resident pointed out that, ironically, the developer’s wife once went on record about a new wedding venue proposed near her own residence and did not want that nuisance in her backyard… and stated he would certainly prefer a wedding venue to the concrete plant if the developer wanted to change his business plan!

Mavis Huff at Franklin Co Hearing 1.31.19 edited 2.jpg

Mavis Huff, homeowner hear proposed concrete plant.

Mavis Huff, a longtime homeowner adjacent to the property the developer now owns, said, “People are more important than money – and we were here first.”

Kathleen Henry, President of Great Rivers, told the Commission that “the County doesn’t exist to make one person a profit at the expense of others.”

The County Commission is expected to make a decision within a month to rezone the land allowing a concrete plant or to deny the request for rezoning.

For more information on the history of this fight, you can check out our past blog posts:

Great Rivers Represents Citizens for Third Time in their Fight to Stop a Concrete Plant Proposed for Land Near Shaw Nature Reserve

Victory for Residents of Franklin County, MO! Planning and Zoning Commission Must Allow People to Speak at Hearings Before Voting – and Construction on a Concrete Plant is Halted!

From the Kitchen of our Young Professionals Board: Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

From the kitchen of our Young Professionals Board: Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
by Destani Collins
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio; resisting a bowl of Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff this time of year was never an option. It’s perfect after a long cold day! The warmth of the pasta, the savory sauce, the hearty mushrooms, twang of rosemary, and zest of lemon create a light juxtaposition for what is perceived to be a heavy pasta.
Mushroom Stroganoff

Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff from the kitchen of Destani Collins

What’s even better is the origins of the ingredients, which don’t include any animal based products. Let me say that I do not believe it is cruel to eat animals, however I do believe our mission to sustain a flourishing and substantial environment is hindered if we do not eat mindfully. Ethically source your ingredients! Why support products that are manufactured at the expense of animal cruelty? Show your body, the environment, and local farmers some love by eating cruelty free. Resources like water and land are required for major meat production, and the immensity of those operations have a tremendously negative impact on the environment and climate change. Moderation and mindfulness allow for good food and the encouragement for animals to be raised in humane environments.
Sound good to you? Sounds good to me! Attached and with the link below you’ll find the recipe for Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff, don’t miss out on this creamy pasta goodness : )

Victory! Developer Abandons Plans to Build Silica Sand Mine in Hillsboro, MO

Citizens in Hillsboro, MO who have been working hard to preserve the air and water quality as well as the landscape near their homes since learning last year of a developer’s plans to build a silica sand mine got some good news on Friday – the developer has shelved plans to build a silica sand mine near their homes! This important agricultural and residential area will be preserved, and the hard work of many dedicated people trying to save their neighborhood really paid off.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has represented the citizens since the spring of 2018. First the citizens convinced the Planning and Zoning Board to deny the application for the silica sand mine. Then the citizens achieved the same result with the County Commission.

The silica sand from the proposed mine would be used for fracking, which is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

The County denied the application for many reasons, including that the proposed mine would destroy the tranquility and quality of life for residents in the neighborhood, the mine would cause an increase in traffic, noise, dust, health hazards and stormwater runoff to the surrounding residential area, and the mine would cause increases in noise, water and air pollution.

But then the developer sued, asking the court to reverse the decision of the County Commission and seeking monetary compensation. The citizens sought intervention in that lawsuit, and they as well as the County argued the lawsuit was without merit. On January 10, the developer dropped his request that the court reverse the order of the Commission. The developer still is seeking monetary compensation from Jefferson County in order to make up what he will not make by not being able to mine in this location. Furthermore, the developer has been purchasing other parcels of land, so although one neighborhood is spared, more may be in danger of being polluted. Great Rivers and the citizens who have been active will watch to see what happens next.

The motion to intervene is rescheduled for a hearing on February 1, 2019 in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. The citizens are weighing their request for intervention on the basis of this new development in the lawsuit.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dan McFarlane

Dan serves on Great Rivers’ Young Professionals Board, and has led various committees during his service. Most recently, he led the events committee through the planning and execution of a Trivia Night in November 2018. He became involved as a founding member of the Young Professionals in 2016, because he wanted to work with an environmental non-profit in the St. Louis area.

Outside of Great Rivers, Dan works as a Staff Scientist for ATC Group Services, an environmental consulting firm with a St. Louis branch. He stays busy as a martial arts instructor with the karate school at Saint Louis University, and pursuit of a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from University of Illinois at Springfield to be finished in Fall 2019. Dan is very close to his family, including his grandmother, who is one of his biggest inspirations and motivators in life.

We asked Dan a few questions so you can get to know him better:

Who’s your favorite superhero?
Batman, because Batman is the best, get out of here with Superman.

What was the best compliment you ever received?
Being told by my instructors that me and my co-instructor have done a great job at keeping the SLU Karate school going, after a rough start.

Something you might be surprised to learn about Dan: he loves tattoos.

Thanks for all you do for Great Rivers, Dan!

New Year, New Commitment: Resolve to Support the Environment in 2019!

New Year’s 2019

$121 of $5,000 raised

This New Year, make a new commitment to supporting the local environment!

The first $5,000 in new monthly donations in January 2019 will be matched dollar for dollar by Steve Maritz. So if you sign up to give a $20 per month donation, your January donation is worth $40!

It’s so easy to become a Sustaining Donor for Great Rivers today – just enter your card information once, and your gift reaches us automatically each month.

Our Sustaining Donors make a big difference – even small amounts add up, and your gifts ensure that we are always ready to help when someone calls looking for help.

You can change or stop your donation at any time.

 

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