Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Great Rivers Urges DNR to Protect Human Health in Sewage Treatment Plant in North St. Louis

April 16, 2018. On behalf of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP and two North St. Louis City residents, Great Rivers filed Comments urging the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to require the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District (“MSD”) to use better public participation practices and to dispose of sewage using anaerobic digestion, methane capture technology, and landfill disposal rather than incineration, because the former leads to better health outcomes, is more economical and is more environmentally friendly.

Residents in North St. Louis City can see a constant trickle of green and yellow haze coming from the stack at Bissell Point after incineration. This may have been an acceptable practice in 1967 when the SSIs were constructed, but is no longer acceptable as a means to address disposal of wastewater sludge. Notably, MSD shut down Incinerator #6, constructed in 1991, which would have been subject to stricter New Source Performance Standards and which would have required reductions in the amounts of pollutants being emitted into the air of St. Louis City residents. Instead, MSD has opted to use four incinerators from 1967 that are exempt from stricter regulation, that continue to leak toxic pollutants into the St. Louis City’s ambient air, and that disproportionately affect low income and minority populations in North St. Louis City, including the Hyde Park, College Hill, and Old North neighborhoods.

Great Rivers urges the DNR to make the permit more protective of human health.

Chocolate Threatened by Climate Change!

Did you know that climate change threatens chocolate? In fact, a 2011 study by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) caused a stir when it suggested that chocolate may go extinct, and that production is expected to decrease noticeably by the year 2030, and the fate of the chocolate market beyond 2050 looks grim. The rising global temperature is expected to make the growing conditions inhospitable for the cocoa plants that produce chocolate in the western African countries who supply a large portion of the globe’s supply of chocolate.

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Scientists and farmers are working hard on identifying how to maintain production as the world warms – such as selectively breeding varieties of cocoa that will withstand the rising temperature and trying out new cultivation methods. (Read more here.)

In the meantime, Great Rivers is working locally to address climate change – for the sake of chocolate, a favorite treat in the office, and for so many other reasons. Our Climate and Energy Program works to promote public health and to decrease carbon pollution by encouraging cleaner energy. Your support makes this possible.

On Sunday, May 6th, 2018, we will hold an event at the Caramel Room at Bissinger’s Chocolate Factory. By attending “Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory,” you directly impact the local environment and public health – so not only do you get to come savor chocolate, but you’ll know you are helping to save it, too. For the love of chocolate, reserve your ticket today at:

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Climate and Energy Director Henry Robertson Goes to the Missouri Supreme Court for Renewable Energy

Henry Robertson, Climate and Energy Director for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, is in Jefferson City, Missouri today as the Missouri Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case for the Clean Line Grain Belt Express. This project would bring clean, renewable, and affordable wind energy from Kansas to the Eastern energy grid. If built, the line will pass through northern Missouri, and will provide some of this energy to local utilities, as well.

Henry is representing our clients the Sierra Club and Renew Missouri in favor of this project. Unlike many transimission lines, which will carry any type of energy across the grid, the Grain Belt Express would transport only wind energy. Addressing the threat of climate change will demand a way to get the cleanest renewable energy from where it is most abundant to where the demand for energy is most abundant – the Grain Belt Express addresses that need.

The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected the project last fall because it considers itself bound by an opinion of the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District in a different transmission line case. Clean Line appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District, where we intervened on behalf of the Sierra Club and filed a brief in support of Clean Line on November 28, 2017, as co-counsel for Renew Missouri as well.

The Court of Appeals ruled in our favor, and the case has been transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court. We are hopeful that the arguments made this morning in favor of Clean Line by their attorney, Jay Nixon, will lead to cleaner air and more sustainable energy for us all.

16 Years with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center: Tom “Yusha” Sager Looks to the Past and Future as he Retires from the Board of Directors

Tom “Yusha” Sager’s service and dedication have meant a lot to Great Rivers over the years. Next week he offically steps off of our Board of Directors. We will be forever grateful for his service, and will all miss his presence at future meetings.

Yusha wrote some reflections about his 16 years with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

16 Years with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center: A Summary
by Tom “Yusha” Sager

When Lewis Green asked me to serve on the Board of Directors of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center 16 years ago, my first thought was why me? I’m not a lawyer and I don’t have any strong connections with St. Louis. I don’t recall his exact words; but he said something like “That’s why I want you on the Board of Directors.” As with everything Lewis said and did, there was a lot of wisdom behind his decision that the Directors of Great Rivers should be a diverse group.

Over the past 16 years I’ve watched Great Rivers double the size of it’s legal staff fromtwo to four attorneys. I’ve watched it chalk up victory after victory from saving Buehler Park in Rolla from commercial development in 2007 to winnng the requirement earlier this month that the Bridgeton Landfill test outfalls and leachate for radiological contamination.


Sarah Willey speaking to a group at an event in Springfield, Missouri in late 2017.

One of the most positive recent events for Great Rivers was Sarah Willey joining the staff as Director of Development and Community Outreach. Sarah has been traveling up and down the State of Missouri getting the name Great Rivers out before the public. This is a dimension that until recently Great Rivers lacked.




Some thoughts about the future of Great Rivers: I would like to see Great Rivers continue to diversify in all possible ways: professionally, racially and geographically. The environment belongs to us all, and Great Rivers should reflect the entire population of the State of Missouri. I’d like to see Great Rivers continue to challenge polluting industries and the bureaucrats who enable these industries and stand in the way of


An example of the type of pollution Great Rivers works to reduce.

environmental reform. Should Great Rivers need a plaintiff in a suit against industry or government, I stand ready to do my part.

And I’ve learned a lot over the 16 years I’ve been involved with Great Rivers. I particularly enjoyed filing pro se (with much help from Bruce Morrison) to try to stop an unnecessary road and the ugliest little shopping center on I-44 from coming to Rolla. We delayed them six months and, I believe, came very close to stopping them altogether.

I hope to stay involved with Great Rivers, although I intend to concentrate my waning energies on working for Peace, as I believe very little can be done for the physical environment as long as we remain focused on War and Violence. As the weekly Rolla Peace Vigils enter their 12th year, I hope to continue vigilling for Peace as long as I’m physically able. I also intend to continue volunteering as a  reader and teller of stories in Rolla’s elementary and preschools, with hope that the next generation may do somewhat better for the Earth than my generation.

May Great Rivers continue to be a positive force for our environment.



Great Rivers Mourns Loss of Louise Green

It is with heavy heart we share the passing of Louise Goold Green on March 11, 2018 at 95 years old. Wife of our founder, Lewis C. Green, and mother of our President, Kathleen Henry, honorary member of our Board, Louise’s loss is felt by all connected to Great Rivers.

To read Louise’s full obituary, please visit the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Gifts in memory of Louise are gratefully accepted at or via mail at: 319 N. Fourth St., Ste. 800, St. Louis, MO 63102.


Give STL Day is May 2nd!

Give STL Day is an annual day of giving through the St. Louis Community Foundation. The day brings the City together in giving to the organizations that make us such a great place to live. Your gift goes further on Give STL Day because the Community Foundation and their sponsors offer bonus prizes for Nonprofits throughout the day, and donors have a chance to win tickets to local sporting events in random drawings during the day!

Any amount you can give to Great Rivers helps a great deal to protect our local environment and health – in 2017, your donations totaled over $2,000! Because you gave on Give STL Day, we also received over $250 in bonus money!

This year, we are setting our sights on a $1,000 bonus prize, and you can help! Your gift during the 5:00am hour will make it possible for us to have a winning shot at the prize. If you can make an early gift on May 2nd, we need your help to win $1,000!

However, we welcome a gift at any other time that is more convenient for you during the 24 hour event, so please don’t be deterred if logging in that early doesn’t work for your schedule!

You don’t have to live in St. Louis to participate – donations from anywhere still count big on Give STL Day!

Want to let us know you plan to give? Record your pledge at – you can even have us text or email you a reminder if you want!

Let your friends on Facebook know about this event:

For more information on Give STL Day, visit

Join Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory!

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For the love of chocolate, don’t miss our upcoming party!


Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory
Sunday, May 6th, 2018
4:30 pm – 7:00pm
at the Caramel Room at Bissinger’s

We will have a fun evening overlooking the Mississippi River from the outdoor deck of the elegant Caramel Room in downtown St. Louis. There will be live music, heavy appetizers, an open bar, a photo booth… and chocolate!

What more could you ask for?

How about a silent auction – full of exciting items including a relaxing week-long vacation in Door County, Wisconsin or Cape Cod, Massachusetts, original artwork by local artist Kat Kissick, and of course, Bissinger’s chocolate! (And much, much more… stay tuned!)

Tickets are on sale now – click here to reserve a ticket today!

Check our Events Page for updated information on this and all of our events.

For information on becoming an event sponsor, please contact Sarah Willey at

Great Rivers visits Kansas City group

Sarah Willey, Director of Development and Community Outreach at Great Rivers, was the guest speaker at the Monday, March 5th meeting of the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition in Prairie Village, Kansas.

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Sarah Willey, Director of Development and Community Outreach at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. Photo credit David Martin.

Meeting attendees learned about the attacks on environmental protection currently underway. Regulations in place to protect our resources and health are necessary for a public interest law firm like Great Rivers to function; one cannot enforce what doesn’t exist! We shared how we are working to stop rollbacks where we can (for example, our attorney Bob Menees recently testified against proposed legislation that would weaken the Missouri Clean Water Law), while continuing our work to ensure that these rules are not violated.

Rollbacks of Environmental Protection

Slide presents New York Times data on the environmental rollbacks underway as of October 2017. Photo credit David Martin.


In addition to nonprofits like Great Rivers working to protect these safeguards, Sarah provided some advice on what individual citizens can do.


We thank the Sustainability Sanctuary Coalition for providing us with the opportunity to speak to their members and to make new friends!

If you have a group and would like to talk about having someone from Great Rivers come speak at your meeting, please contact Sarah at or 314-231-4181.


Great Rivers testimony leads to better testing to protect citizens from radioactive waste

Every five years or so, any landfill in Missouri will need to renew their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which defines acceptable levels of pollution from the site and any necessary testing that must be done to ensure safety of the surrounding residents. These renewal periods include an opportunity for public comments.

Great Rivers attorney, Bob Menees, and Ed Smith, Policy Director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, each offered testimony at a public hearing on October 11, 2017 regarding the renewal for the Bridgeton Landfill’s NPDES permit. The permit that had been in operation for the past five years did not require any radioactive testing of the site. Given the radioactive wastes that are buried within the adjacent West Lake Landfill, we felt that radioactive testing was a necessary precaution for human health and the environment and urged the Missouri DNR to add this requirement to the renewed permit. Our testimony called for testing at the outfalls nearest the radioactive waste. Outfalls are the places where stormwater from the landfill are discharged from the site, and from where they make their way into the waterways we use for recreation, drinking, and more.


Map of the landfill site demonstrating the outfall sites

On February 28, 2018, the Missouri DNR issued a new permit which requires radioactive testing at outfalls 007, 008, & 009 for the following radionuclides: gross alpha, beta particle and photon radioactivity (gross beta), total uranium, total radium, radium-226, and radium-228. In addition, based on Bob’s testimony the DNR added monitoring for leachate at two outfalls where they had not originally planned to monitor for those pollutants. This is important because leachate is the wastewater produced by landfills, which contains a wide array of pollutants, such as benzene and heavy metals, that can cause damage to the surrounding ecosystem and to the community’s health.

You can read the text of Bob and Ed’s comment letter here.

You can read Missouri DNR’s responses to comments here.

You can read the final permit issued by the Missouri DNR here, including additional maps of the site.

Preserving the Missouri Clean Water Law

On Monday, February 28th, 2018, Great Rivers staff attorney Bob Menees testified in front of the Missouri House of Representatives Rules- Administrative Oversight Committee against HB 1973. The bill would significantly weaken the Missouri Clean Water Law by limiting the State’s ability to enforce against water contaminant sources and to prevent pollution before it happens.

The Committee voted against the bill 8-1 on February 28th, sending it back to the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.

Click here to read Bob’s written testimony submitted to the Committee.

Click here to see the bill text and progression.