Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Great Rivers to Present Hazardous Waste Report to NAACP Environmental Justice Committee

On April 26, 2019, General Counsel Bruce Morrison will present a recently completed report detailing the impact of hazardous waste sites on minority and low-income communities in Missouri. This report, prepared by undergraduate intern Chalaun Lomax, is the result of several months of analysis using EPA mapping tools in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources’ Annual Registry Report. The DNR report lists all hazardous waste sites across the state of Missouri, ranging from Class 1 – sites causing or presenting imminent danger – to Class 4 sites, which are properly closed.

The purpose of this report (which can be viewed here) is to encourage local NAACP branches to prioritize environmental justice issues. Great Rivers hopes to achieve this by presenting a widespread, tangible issue that is impacting the everyday lives of disadvantaged Missourians.

First, Great Rivers identified hazardous waste sites using the DNR Annual Registry Report mentioned earlier. The report contains confirmed abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste disposal sites in Missouri. The sites we chose are in 4 major counties in Missouri which have NAACP branches: St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, and St. Charles County.

Then, Great Rivers used EJSCREEN – an EPA mapping tool – to set a 1.86-mile radius around each site and analyze the demographic indicators for the population within this radius. The EPA index includes various indicators, including the population size, the percentage of minority and low-income individuals, and the percentage with less than a high school education.

A 1.86-mile radius was used in accordance with the 2007 landmark report “Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty,” which found that more than half of the people who live within 1.86 miles of toxic waste facilities in the United States are people of color. This statistic held true for many of the sites examined in this report.

The report reveals that thousands of Missourians are at a heightened risk of health issues as a result of their proximity to these hazardous waste sites that require continued management. Great Rivers hopes that further action will be taken by the NAACP Committee after reading this report.

Great Rivers and the Missouri NAACP Opposed EPA’s Plan to Roll Back Hazardous Emissions from Coal

Regulation of hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act protects individuals, families and communities, especially those of color, from unnecessary premature deaths, asthma attacks, cancer, neurological deficits and heart attacks.  With 68% of African Americans living within 30 miles of a coal plant and low income communities more likely to be host to a coal plant, these vulnerable Americans bear a greater brunt of hazardous coal plant emissions.  In 2016 EPA concluded regulation of these hazardous emissions is “appropriate and necessary.”  EPA now proposes to reverse course.

Great Rivers volunteer Lauren Lageson submitted comments on April 17, 2019 on behalf of the Missouri NAACP urging the EPA to stand by its previous determinations to regulate harmful air pollution.

The Missouri NAACP views the proposed changes as a threat to the rights and the wellbeing of people of color and low income communities, who stand to be disproportionately affected by the changes.[1]   EPA’s devaluation of co-benefits in its analysis threatens the quality of life and the health of our most vulnerable citizens, including children, the elderly and the economically-disadvantaged. Excluding the health and well-being of these communities from consideration in a cost analysis, while giving undo weight to industry cost, is unconscionable.

You can read the full comments here.


Great Rivers Submits Comments On Bridgeton Landfill

Great Rivers and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment submitted comments on Bridgeton Landfill’s air pollution permit to the Department of Natural Resources.  Bridgeton Landfill has been the source of significant air pollution issues over the last several years due to the underground fire at the site.  The landfill has been the source of odor violations, significant releases of sulfur dioxide, and above-ground fires that have released harmful air pollutants into the ambient air.  The comments seek to ensure that Bridgeton Landfill’s operations comply with air pollution requirements as much as possible.

Full comments available here.

Great Rivers Files Comments to Protect Clean Water

Today on behalf of the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“Missouri NAACP”), Great Rivers submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s and the Army Corps’ proposed Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States.”  The proposed rule is a bad rule for water quality, habitat loss, and flood impacts.  The new definition would roll back protections which have been in place since President Carter held office.  Unless EPA and the Army Corps change course, this particular proposal will remove protections for at least half the remaining wetlands in the United States.

Full comments available here.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center Serves Notice of Intent to Sue to Protect Meramec River from Oil, Grease and Chlorine Pollution

On April 3, 2019, on behalf of Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper (MCW), Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed a formal Notice of Intent to sue MotoMart for violations of the federal and state Clean Water laws. MCW believes that MotoMart’s own reports show continuous and ongoing violations of the law in that the company discharges E. coli, oil and grease, total suspended solids, and chlorine—into the Meramec River in concentrations and amounts that exceed effluent limitations contained in its permit.

The MotoMart at issue is located in Valley Park, Missouri, nearby to popular swimming and recreation places for thousands of people each year. The pollutants discharged present threats to public health, and diminish use and enjoyment of those waters and the aquatic-dependent wildlife and ecosystems they support. The company’s records show that the pollution has exceeded limits for at least five years.

“The E. coli, oil, grease, total suspended solids, and chlorine, threaten the quality of the Meramec River for people, fish and wildlife that depend on the River for recreation and habitat,” said Rachel Bartels, Director of Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper. “These violations of the law must stop.”

“Discharges from MotoMart have consistently violated and continue to violate the Clean Water Act and present a direct and substantial threat to the water quality of the Meramec River, especially in light of Meramec River’s status as an impaired water,” said Bob Menees, staff attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

The lawsuit will be filed in federal court sixty days after the notice is served on the company.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jim Wilson

Jim is recognized as a Senior Counselor by the Mo. Bar for over 50 years of practice of law. He  served as City Counselor for the City of St. Louis and also was an adjunct professor at St. Louis University. He has lectured on American  government in China, Vietnam, and the Ukraine for an Affiliate of the United Nations.
As City Counselor he met Great Rivers’s founder, Lewis C. Green, while handling several lawsuits, both as an adversary  and as a colleague. Jim developed an admiration for Lewis. He assisted Lewis in the founding of Great Rivers and served as Chairman of the Board for its initial nine years.  In that role, he helped develop legal strategies in regard to Clean Water, Clean Air and Renewable Energy. He continues to serve on the Board and participates in the work of various committees.
While City Counselor he developed a strong interest in the Environment with matters such as the development of a Trash to Energy Project, removal of radioactive waste at Lambert Field, and preventing the destruction of wetlands along the Missouri river, needed for the Riverport Stadium Project opposed by the City of St. Louis.
Presently Mr. Wilson enjoys retirement by reading history, playing golf and spectating at various grandkids’ sporting events. Jim is an avid traveler and has visited all seven continents. He is currently serving  as Chairman of the Advocacy Committee of the Society of Vincent de Paul which is endeavoring to support legislation that will assist the Poor.
Jim Wilson 3.jpg
We asked Jim a few questions so you can get to know him better:
What book is on your nightstand right now? Currently, I am listening to the audio version of “The First Conspiracy,” which is about an attempt by the British to assassinate  George Washington early in the Revolutionary War.
What is the best vacation you ever took? My favorite vacation was visiting Antarctica.
What is the most memorable compliment you ever received? A compliment from my wife on my work when she attended my Argument in the United States Supreme Court in 1987.
How do you like to unwind after a long day? I enjoy listening to music with a “Manhattan” at the end of the day.
Who is your favorite superhero? One of my favorite “superheros” is Adlai  Stevenson.


Great Rivers Demands St. Louis City Clean Up Polluting Business in Hyde Park

On March 22, 2019, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center sent a formal Complaint to the City of St. Louis on behalf of residents of the Hyde Park neighborhood in North St. Louis. Great Rivers requested the City to take appropriate action against two businesses that are violating City ordinances by using public rights-of-way for their private loading dock, storage facility, and dumping site. For decades these businesses have continuously dumped refuse along the north side of Farrar Avenue, just west of 21st Street, by placing their metal, industrial waste, and other solid wastes in the sidewalk. One business does not use refuse containers. The businesses have no permits from the Board of Public Service to maintain these obstructions and encroachments, which obstruct the sidewalks and parts of streets. These properties are not approved sanitary landfill sites, and neither entity has approval from the Refuse Commissioner to dump its refuse on the sidewalk. Not only does this practice cause illegal obstructions and encroachments to the public right-of-way, it constitutes illegal dumping of solid waste.

Public health and zoning ordinances are designed to protect citizens from public nuisances. When those ordinances are not enforced by the government with authority to do so, citizens suffer and have little recourse against the offending businesses. The City of St. Louis has turned a blind eye to two businesses that cause disparate health and safety impacts to this minority community.

“The City needs to stop ignoring the illegal activities of businesses in North St. Louis,” said Bob Menees, attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “Cities must enforce the laws in all communities and not ignore them in minority and low-income communities.”

Great Rivers’ Complaint asks the City of St. Louis to enforce its ordinances as written to require these businesses to clean up their act and to help improve the environment and community of Hyde Park.

Sunshine and Wine: a Fun Event in Southern Illinois

We partnered with StraightUp Solar to host “Sunshine and Wine” on March 23, 2019 at Alto Vineyards near Carbondale, Illinois. Attendees enjoyed free tastes of local wine and learned about opportunities to get involved with Great Rivers and to add solar power to their home or business.

Check out photos from the event and a video of remarks from the event by Great Rivers’ staff.

Missouri Public Service Commission Approves Wind Transmission Line After Long Battle

On March 20, 2019, the Missouri Public Service Commission granted a certificate of convenience and necessity for the construction of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line, a transmission line that will carry electricity from wind farms in southwestern Kansas to Missouri and points farther east.

The decision marks a victorious culmination to a process that began five years ago when Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, Texas, first applied to the PSC for permission. The PSC twice refused to approve it, and the case has been through the Missouri Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. A coalition of Missouri landowners doggedly fought the line and will probably appeal again, but after the Missouri Supreme Court decided that the PSC could grant permission, and the Commission unanimously did so, it is unlikely they’ll succeed.

From the beginning in 2014 through now, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has supported the line on behalf of the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter and the Natural Resources Defense Council, who support wind energy in a state still heavily dominated by coal. Low-priced Kansas wind power is highly sought after by Missouri’s municipal utilities.

The line still needs approval in Illinois. Meanwhile, Clean Line has sold the project’s assets to Chicago-based Invenergy, a larger company with a long track record of successfully building and managing energy infrastructure.

Join Us for Nuclear Fool’s Day on April 1st!

This year on April Fool’s Day, join Beyond Nuclear and partner organizations for a conversation on why nuclear fuel is for fools, and learn how you can get involved in building a clean energy future.

When: Monday, April 1st, 2019 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Where: Schlafly Taproom (2100 Locust St., St. Louis, MO 63103)

RSVP (free): Click here

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear’s Radioactive Waste Specialist, will give an educational presentation about the proposed plan to ship high-level radioactive waste through Missouri.

Under the current Yucca Mountain, Nevada burial dump scheme, 3,574 rail-sized casks on trains and/or heavy-haul trucks, would travel through Missouri, bound for Nevada, if the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump were to open.

The vast majority of the waste shipments through Missouri would be from other states’ atomic reactors to the east, passing through Missouri, bound for Nevada.

The 3,574 casks bound for Nevada would make Missouri among the category of states harder hit than others, in terms of shipment numbers, especially such as compared to most states east of the Mississippi River.

Nuclear Waste Transport Routes Environmental Law

(75% of commercial atomic reactors, and thus high-level radioactive wastes, are east of the Mississippi. However, shipments of such eastern high-level radioactive wastes would pass through states, like Missouri, bound for western dumps like Yucca Mountain, Nevada.)

Missouri also has the dubious distinction of being downstream from potential barge shipments of high-level radioactive waste, from Cooper Nuclear Power Station (located in Nebraska, on the Missouri state line), up the Missouri River, into the Port of Omaha, Nebraska.

Pending congressional legislation, such as the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (H.R. 3053 in the past congressional session), would expedite the opening of the Yucca dump, and also significantly increase the quantity of waste that could be buried in Nevada (correspondingly increasing the numbers of shipments to cross Missouri from reactors to the east).

Click the links within the post for more information. There are lessons to be learned from Pennsylvania, home to the Three Mile Island Unit 2 meltdown 40 years ago, on March 28, 1979 — directly applicable to Missouri.

So-called “centralized interim storage facilities” (CISF) in New Mexico, and/or Texas, could well mean even larger shipment numbers through Missouri, and in the much nearer term. Whereas the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump is currently limited to 70,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste burial, New Mexico’s CISF has applied for 173,600 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel storage capacity; Texas’s CISF has applied for another 40,000 metric tons. Altogether, the CISFs targeted at the Southwest represent three times the amount of highly radioactive waste currently targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, with the potential for a corresponding increase in high-level radioactive waste shipment numbers crossing Missouri. The CISFs have proposed opening and commencing shipments by the early 2020s.

Health, safety, security, and environmental risks include severe accidents, or even terrorist attacks, releasing catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity, impacting an entire region. (See a Public Citizen fact sheet entitled “Everyone Knows That Accidents Happen: Nuclear Waste Transport Casks”.)

Also see a graphic, showing the penetrating power of harmful gamma and neutron radiation, “allowed” or “permitted” to be emitted from shipping containers, at a certain dose rate, at a certain distance (10 milli-Rem per hour, or about 1 to 2 chest X-rays per hour, at a distance of six feet; 200 mR/hr, or about 20 to 40 chest X-rays per hour, at the shipping container’s exterior surface).  Thus, even so-called routine, incident-free shipments would be like “mobile X-ray machines that can’t be turned off,” delivering a harmful dose of gamma and neutron ionizing radiation, at close range, as they pass by. Externally contaminated shipping containers would make such doses even worse. (See 49 documented cases of “surface contamination” in the U.S., just from 1974 to 1992.)

Come learn more about the risks, and how they can be prevented.

PHOTO OP: An inflatable, full-scale replica of a highly radioactive waste Legal Weight Truck-sized shipping cask will be deployed outside the event.

In addition to plenty of Q&A/discussion time, the 90-minute program will include:

A presentation by Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear, addressing the safety and security risks of transporting highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel on the roads and rails, as proposed in legislation currently pending before the U.S. Congress. He will also discuss the risks of irradiated nuclear fuel indoor wet storage pool fires for the entire region, and the interim alternative of Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), as well as the need to stop generating high-level radioactive waste (unfortunately, the Callaway atomic reactor in Missouri has been rubber-stamped for an extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 60 years of operations, until the year 2044).

An animation, prepared by Scott Portzline, Security Consultant, Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA), about radioactive waste transport risks, will be shown. So too will a 90-second aerial drone-captured video, featuring transport routes in Pennsylvania. A short informational video, “Nuclear Transports – Eye-Witness to Rule-breaking,” also prepared by Portzline, will be shown. Lessons learned from Pennsylvania will be applied to Missouri (the 40th annual commemoration of the 1979 reactor core meltdown at Three Mile Island Unit 2 near Harrisburg is on March 28th).

Short presentations from staff at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment with information on how to get involved locally these statewide environmental organizations.

Event is co-hosted by:
Beyond Nuclear
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center
Kay Drey
Missouri Coalition for the Environment