Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Citizens in Jefferson County Pursue a Voice in Court as They Fight to Stop a Silica Sand Mine

Citizens in Hillsboro, MO, have been working hard to preserve the air and water quality as well as the landscape near their homes since learning earlier this year of a developer’s plans to build a silica sand mine. On October 11, 2018, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed a motion seeking to intervene on behalf of adjacent landowners in a lawsuit brought by the developer against Jefferson County, after the County denied the developer’s application to build a silica sand mine in an agricultural and residential area in Hillsboro. The silica sand 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 had 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.

Jefferson County Waterfall

photo credit Jenn DeRose

Adjoining and adjacent neighbors seek intervention in the lawsuit to protect their interests. “We are opposed to the silica sand mine because it will negatively impact our residential neighborhood and change our way of life. Every day when we look out of our windows, open our front door, sit on our porch, or work in our yard we will experience the noise, destruction of nature, and pollution that mining silica sand causes. We are fearful that our home will be damaged, our well water polluted or lost, and our health will be threatened,” said JoAnn Enloe, an adjacent landowner.

Adjoining neighbor Suzzanne Bouchard’s entire eastern border of her property abuts the proposed silica mine property. A large portion of the bordering land is held under conservation easements by the Ozark Regional Land Trust.

“Silica mining would put in jeopardy the environment, water, wells, land, pastures, forests and animals as well as cliffs, houses, outbuildings and peace of mind. The health, safety, and welfare of my neighbors, also adjoining properties, and individuals I consider family, all of us, will be put at risk,” said Suzzanne Bouchard.

“Jefferson County stood up for the health of its citizens,” said Kathleen Henry, attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “The Planning and Zoning Commission and County Council had dozens of valid reasons for denying a permit to build a silica mine in a residential area and the applicant should not be permitted to mine silica in this location.”

The motion to intervene is set for hearing November 2, 2018 in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Thank you to the Employees Community Fund of Boeing for their Generous Support of Great Rivers!

Great Rivers is honored to receive a generous grant of $10,000 from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing to support our work to bring environmental justice to the residents of North St. Louis. These funds will help us continue and expand our work to ensure that businesses have proper air and water pollution permits and to comment on any permit renewals or modifications that will allow for unacceptable levels of pollution. The life expectancy in the areas we are working is 10 years less than other parts of St. Louis, and there are higher rates of hospitalization, asthma, cancer, and other health concerns. By fighting alongside the community to keep air and water clean, we can impact these statistics.

The Employees Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is a separate legal entity from The Boeing Company. It is run and financed by the employees of Boeing. We are grateful to the members of the board and to all of the employees who contributed to make this gift possible!

Why I Joined Great Rivers Environmental Law Center’s Young Professionals Board and Why You Should, Too

Last year, I joined the Young Professionals Board of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. As a former intern, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-connect. After all, President Kathleen Henry took me to a robot convention on the last day of my internship!

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I don’t remember how I learned about the Young Professionals Board. But I remember thinking the fact that Great Rivers even has a Young Professionals Board is a testament to its unyielding commitment to promote, preserve, and protect the environment. Because in order to do that for generations to come, an organization has to integrate future generations.

Sadly, according to the 2017 BoardSource Nonprofit Board Practices, less than 17% of nonprofit board members are under 40 years old and most nonprofits do not have a young professionals board.

But Great Rivers is different.

Not only does it have a committed Board of Directors, but it also has a selfless and committed staff who have welcomed the young professionals with open arms. Director of Development, Sarah Willey, works alongside our young professionals daily, and attorneys Kathleen, Bruce, Henry, and Bob regularly appear at events in support of the young professionals.

Their commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed. Recently, the Young Nonprofit Professionals St. Louis Chapter announced Great Rivers as a finalist for the Outstanding Nonprofit Organization Award.

Why Should You Get Involved?

1. It’s fun.

As a member of the Young Professionals Board, you provide integral support to the organization’s mission and programs.

But we do this while having a lot of fun.

Our meetings are effective and organized but relaxed and enjoyable. At every meeting, the staff members share key updates on the cases they’re working on and the issues they’re researching. They then look to us for input on strategies and suggestions.

We laugh. We talk about our lives. We drink beer.

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2. You get to build your professional network.

When you join our team, you’re joining a group of fun people with a diverse array of professional backgrounds: from marketing and data management to asbestos remediation and legal work. You’ll get the opportunity to meet new people and interact with individuals who likely aren’t in your current professional network. By expanding your network in this way, you’ll discover new mentors and professional opportunities you might not otherwise discover.

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3. You get to develop new skills.

You already have a background and skillset that would be a tremendous asset to Great Rivers. When you join our team, you’ll be able to enhance that skillset or carve out opportunities to explore new skills. There are always opportunities to help with membership development, fundraising, event planning, and project management. But you can also identify specific projects that you want to handle in order to bolster your long-term professional goals.

For example, a young professional looking to build experiences in the nonprofit sector could initiate a new donor campaign or undertake to write a specific grant application. A young legal professional looking to build board governance experience could volunteer to review and revise the By-Laws. A young marketing professional could write SEO-optimized copy for the Great Rivers website.

Whatever your interests, there are opportunities to learn new skills and try new things.

4. What You’re Doing Matters

When you join the young professionals board, you’re supporting Missouri’s first and only public interest law firm focused on the environment and public health. Think of it this way: there aren’t many law firms that are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and even less that are devoted to environmental issues.

While other organizations may use educational campaigns and lobbying efforts to protect the environment, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has the unique ability to use the justice system—working through municipal, trial, and appellate courts and administrative agencies—to enforce and enhance environmental laws and protections.

The team at Great Rivers has been doing exactly that for the last 16 years, setting unprecedented court and community victories, like our recent climate change victory in the Missouri Supreme Court or our Sugar Creek rezoning victory in the Kirkwood City Council.

How to Get Involved

Joining our team is easy.

To start, fill out an application. Someone from our team (maybe even me!) will be in touch to set up a time to grab coffee (on us!). The coffee chat is your opportunity to ask us questions and make sure this commitment is something that you want to do. We’ll also chat through what comes next in terms of joining, upcoming events you may be interested in, and your long-term professional goals.

If you ever have any questions, we’re only an email away.

Great Rivers named finalist for Outstanding Nonprofit Organization Award at 2018 YNPN Standing Ovation Awards

The Young Nonprofit Professionals St. Louis Chapter announced the finalists for their annual Standing Ovation Awards today, and Great Rivers is honored to be listed as a finalist for the Outstanding Nonprofit Organization Award.

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The awards will be presented at an event on Thusday, September 20th, 2018. The winners in each category will be announced at the event.

Great Rivers is honored to be selected as a finalist, and our staff look forward to attending the event next month and learning who will take home the award!

Ticket Sales Annual Awards Party 2018

2018 Annual Awards Party Tickets

Our Annual Awards Party on Sunday, October 14th, 2018 will be a delightful evening, featuring live music, hors d’oeuvres,drinks, and an exciting silent auction.

We’re so glad you can join us at the Twilight Room at the Moonrise Hotel, 6177 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63112.

Tickets are tax-deductible above the $40 fair market value per ticket. Tax receipts will be issued by mail.

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Donation Total: $125.00

Citizens File Suit Challenging Zoning Change Allowing Subdivision in Missouri Research Park

On July 25, 2018, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed suit in the St. Charles County Circuit Court on behalf of Weldon Woods, Inc., and a citizen of Weldon Spring, asking the Court to void the rezoning allowing a huge subdivision to be built on wooded bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.

Hundreds of people attended Planning and Zoning Commission meetings in opposition to this proposed development on land that was given to the University of Missouri. This property adjoins Weldon Spring Conservation Area, the Katy Trail and the Great Rivers Greenway Busch Greenway Trail.  The site includes steep river bluff slopes, century-old trees, and habitat for many species including the Indiana bat. For these reasons among others, the P & Z Commission overwhelmingly voted to deny a rezoning request, but the County Council approved a revised plan.

“The Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a subdivision on this property because it is the wrong place for a subdivision,” said Dan Burkhardt, a Director of Weldon Woods. “No matter how many units there are, these wooded, steep slopes adjoining conservation areas should not become a subdivision.”

“This unique treasure should be preserved and made available to all residents to enjoy,” said Mark Kaiser, Founder and Director of Weldon Woods. “The overwhelming majority of the citizens are saying ‘no’ to this development, but the Council is not listening.”

“The County Council should have sent the new proposal back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a hearing,” said Kathleen Henry, attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “The Council violated the law by approving this when there had never been a public hearing on it.”

The citizens request the St. Charles County Circuit Court to declare the rezoning void.

Victory for the Climate in the Missouri Supreme Court

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of a new wind transmission line, the Clean Line Grain Belt Express. This project will bring clean, renewable, and affordable wind energy from Kansas to the Eastern energy grid. The line’s proposed path will pass through northern Missouri, and will provide some of this energy to local utilities, as well.

Great Rivers’ Climate and Energy Director, Henry Robertson, represented 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. Robertson explains that the Grain Belt Express does just that.

“The wind is on the Great Plains where the people aren’t,” said Robertson. “To stop climate change we have to get wind energy to the populations farther east. 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 proceeded to the Missouri Supreme Court. We are elated that the arguments made in favor of Clean Line by their attorney, Jay Nixon, will lead to cleaner air and more sustainable energy for us all.

You can read more about the case at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Victory for Save Sugar Creek in Kirkwood City Council – Rezoning that could increase flood risk has been denied.

Great Rivers proudly represents Save Sugar Creek, a citizens group in Kirkwood, Missouri. Last week, the citizens who make up Save Sugar Creek won a great victory. The Kirkwood City Council voted unanimously against a rezoning request that they’d been fighting because it would lead to increased flooding of Sugar Creek, an impaired water body. The rezoning would also set dangerous precedent for any resident who wants to make more money by splitting the owners’ parcel of land into different zoning district. That would allow for more dense development and more profit from selling the land. Great Rivers filed comments to the Kirkwood City Council and spoke at hearings on June 21 and July 5, 2018.

One of the founders of the Save Sugar Creek group, A.C. Marchionne, stated, “Sugar Creek Valley is a special place, filled with life, and unlike any other place in Kirkwood.  We are very grateful for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center for all they did to help us organize and defeat the rezoning request at 1837 Bach Avenue.  And we are especially thankful to members of the City Council and the Mayor for agreeing with our position.  Although this issue is resolved for now, we know that our Save Sugar Creek team members are ready to mobilize for the next challenges, especially since we know there will be more opportunities to save Sugar Creek Valley.”

You can learn more about Save Sugar Creek at: savesugarcreek.com.

More information on the July 5, 2018 Kirkwood City Council Meeting is available in new stories from Fox 2 Now and KSDK.

Join Great Rivers’s Young Professionals Board at the Schlafly Taproom for their third annual Sunset Social event

Don’t miss Great Rivers’ third annual Sunset Social:

When: Friday, July 13th 6pm – 8pm
Where: Schlafly Taproom (2100 Locust)

Our Young Professionals Board is hosting this informal event where all members of the community are welcome to come meet our staff and volunteers. Learn about what Great Rivers is doing in the community, and share your concerns for the local environment and public health.

All are welcome, no tickets are required for this event. $35 suggested donation.
Please RSVP to Sarah: sarah@greatriverslaw.org

Photos from past Sunset Social events:

GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER AND THE MISSOURI COALITION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT SUE STATE OF MISSOURI FOR UNCONSTITUTIONALLY PASSING LAW HOSTILE TO STATE PARKS

On behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Thomas Sager, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court on Thursday, May 17, against the state of Missouri over its passage of Senate Bill 35, which makes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) jump through more hoops, at taxpayer expense, to acquire land for state parks.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Sager challenge the bill because the way the legislature passed it in 2017 was unconstitutional. The law imposes new requirements on the DNR when it purchases land, requirements not imposed on other state agencies. The bill was passed in retaliation to former Governor Jay Nixon’s establishment of four new state parks. SB 35 forces DNR to provide additional public notice to every public official in the counties in which any part of the land lies, publish notice in newspapers, and hold a public hearing in each county.

“SB 35 is a clear attempt by a legislature steeped in anti-environmentalism to inhibit the Department of Natural Resources in performing its constitutional duties with additional and unnecessary taxpayer expense.” said plaintiff Thomas Sager.

“The legislature can’t pass a misleading law by amending a statute that doesn’t even apply to DNR,” said Henry Robertson, Great Rivers’ attorney for the parties.

“Missourians are proud of our outstanding state parks,” said Ed Smith, Policy Director of MCE. “The legislature is trying to stir up opposition to protecting our wild landscapes. This is not what voters wanted when they renewed the state parks and soils conservation tax with nearly 80% support statewide.”

The suit asks the Cole County Circuit Court to declare SB 35 unconstitutional and void.

Great Rivers is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm in St. Louis that provides free and reduced-fee legal services to those working to protect the environment and public health.  Its web address is: www.greatriverslaw.org.

 The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) state-level conservation organization, is a force for clean air, clean water and clean energy in Missouri. Since 1969 it has educated and activated Missourians to protect the land we all love. Its web address is: www.moenvironment.org.