Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Change Starts With You

Eva Kappas

by Eva Kappas, Guest Writer

My name is Eva and I’m fifteen years old. Every 4th of July since I was little, my family and I have gone down to southern Missouri, where we have a lot of relatives. There’s a tiny cabin there that my grandmother lived in when she was little that sits right on the bank of a river. Every year, my cousins and brothers and I float down the river, make s’mores and play soccer in the dewy grass. My brothers and cousins like to catch fish and throw them back into the river from a dock that has been flooded, repaired and rebuilt many times.

Because like all rivers, the river floods when it rains, and it washes up over the dock. But each year the rain gets a little bit stronger, and the dock goes from getting damaged to completely uprooted. I don’t want to see the water become more acidic, the algae bloom, or fish die, as will inevitably happen as a result of climate change. But my generation will be dealing with the effects of today’s pollution.

Other weather has gotten more intense, too, like the tornadoes barreling down tornado alley. I was eight when the Joplin tornado leveled my great-grandmother’s house. I remember driving past the piles of splintered wooden beams, crushed living room couches with the stuffing spilling out, and the occasional tricycle peeking out of the rubble.

I am choosing to fight for a livable future for my family, and for the beautiful spaces that still exist on this planet. I am also choosing to fight for good jobs and an equitable future, because my experience still pales in comparison to others’ reality in the face of the climate crisis.

I am not a part of a frontline community. I have never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from, or drink lead-contaminated tap water — which is why I have all the more responsibility to make a change. We aren’t just fighting for ourselves, we’re fighting for the planet. And it’s easier to let it go. It’s easier to say, “oh, climate change is someone else’s problem.” But action is crucial. For refugees forced to flee their homes from rising sea levels, for the bees that are the backbone of our ecosystem, for brilliantly colored coral reefs and for everyone who breathes the oxygen of the Amazon and drinks what freshwater we have left. But in order to sustain this ecosystem, and support the people who have already suffered the most from the climate crisis, we need changes that will last.

The change starts with you. The greatest power we are afforded in this country is the power to vote, so use it. Making clean energy options available for households and institutions and sourcing government utilities from clean energy are the first steps to a carbon-neutral state. We need measures to promote the use of clean energy and to phase out the fossil fuels that are blackening our skies and suffocating our ecosystem. This is an emergency, and we have to act like it.

I know you all know we need to take these steps. So now I turn to our policy makers: Politicians: Will you continue to stall while our generation dies, or will you choose to lead with courage, and do what is right to protect our country and our future? If we can make this choice — if our politicians will join us in making this choice — then we have a chance at saving the people and places that we love. We have a chance at stopping climate change.

VICTORY! 1,000 New Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Coming Soon to Missouri

Electric Vehicle Charging
Henry Robertson
Henry Robertson leads Great Rivers Climate and Energy Program

For the past 18 months, Great Rivers’ Climate and Energy Director Henry Robertson has served as legal representative of both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club before Missouri’s Public Service Commission in support of Ameren Missouri’s electric vehicle (EV) program.

The PSC’s decision, announced last week, will allow Ameren to invest approximately six million dollars in their “Charge Ahead” program, providing incentives to build EV charging infrastructure at workplaces, multi-family dwellings and at public places like businesses for “around town” charging.

The move is intended to encourage the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in targeted locations where infrastructure is necessary to support customer purchase of cleaner, more efficient electric vehicles. The first charging stations are planned to be installed by the end of this year, with all stations to be installed by the end of 2020.

EVs are coming down in price, and it’s cheaper to charge than to fill up a gas tank.

It is a strange but welcome change to find ourselves advocating on behalf of Ameren Missouri, to bring reduced emissions and cleaner air to Missouri’s citizens.

The transportation sector generates the largest share of all national greenhouse gas emissions (approximately 28.9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017). While we still have a long way to go in making sure that the sector uses electricity generated by renewable sources, this week’s victory advances that goal. It is a positive step toward much-needed improvement of air quality in the region and reducing our production of climate-change causing emissions.

Great Rivers’ President Bruce Morrison Named to Best Lawyers in America 2020

Bruce Morrison

August 16, 2019

Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most highly respected peer review guide to excellence in the legal profession, has named Bruce A. Morrison to its 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice area of Environmental Litigation.

Mr. Morrison has served the people of Missouri through his work at Great Rivers since its founding in 2002. After serving as General Counsel for many years, he assumed leadership of the center in September of 2019. His work has included issues affecting water quality, air pollution, floodplains and wetlands preservation, the protection of parks and open space, and environmental justice.

“Bruce’s passionate and competent protection of Missouri’s environment and the health of our citizens is unwavering. He is an icon among environmental attorneys in our country”.

– Steve Mahfood, Great Rivers’ Board of Directors

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. Almost 87,000 leading lawyers globally are eligible to vote, and Best Lawyers received almost 10 million evaluations on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers, “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed announces release of 100% Clean Energy Plan for St. Louis

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Great Rivers’ Attorney and Climate and Energy Director Henry Robertson and other Committee Members will share the findings of the City’s 100% Clean Energy Plan.

via Mary Ries
Legislative Director to Board of Aldermen President Lewis E. Reed

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed announced today that he will share the findings of the City’s 100% Clean Energy Plan on Monday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. during the Board of Aldermen Legislation Committee Meeting at City Hall. 

For more than 18 months, a dedicated group of volunteer consultants have worked to develop a 100% Clean Energy Plan through a transparent and inclusive stakeholder process, which provides ways for the City to meet the 100% clean energy goal.

“St. Louis is the largest Midwestern City to commit to such an ambitious goal. St. Louis is taking the lead and acknowledging the threat of climate change. This is a serious issue in our world, which we need to address,” said Reed.

The 100% clean energy goal was established by the unanimous passage of Resolution 124 by the Board of Aldermen. 

“The volunteer consultants have spent hundreds of hours working in the community and seeking input to draft a set of recommendations that focus on reducing emissions for our City; saving the City and residents money; creating jobs; and ensuring equitable access for our residents. On behalf of the City of St. Louis, I would like to thank them all for their extreme generosity to the future of our City,” said Reed. 

BACKGROUND: On October 27, 2017, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously adopted Resolution 124, sponsored by Board President Lewis Reed, which established a goal for St. Louis to move to 100% clean energy in the electricity sector by 2035. At that time, St. Louis became the 47th City in the nation, and the largest in the Midwest, to adopt such a goal. Resolution 124 also established a process for developing a plan to meet that ambitious 100% clean energy goal. This Report is the result of that process. 

Learn more at 

The meeting is open to the public.

Small Environmental Law Center Receives Recognition as a 2020 “Best Law Firm” for their Services to Protect the Environment and Preserve the Public Health.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center (“Great Rivers”) is pleased to announce that it has been recognized as a Tier 1 Metropolitan “Best Law Firm” in Environmental Litigation by U.S. News- Best Lawyers, in 2020. Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Bruce Morrison, Great Rivers’ newly-elected President and former General Counsel, was also recognized by U.S. News- Best Lawyers as a Best Lawyer in Environmental Litigation, for the 9th consecutive year.

Great Rivers is a nonprofit public interest law firm whose mission is to enhance clean air, water and energy, to preserve wetlands and parks, and to promote the public health. It provides legal services for free or at reduced rates to citizens and organizations in asserting and defending their rights before administrative officials and as a last resort before the courts. It also drafts legislation and initiative petitions and works to enforce existing laws and regulations. It has provided free and reduced fee legal representation to individuals experiencing threats of pollution or destruction to their environment, and to environmental organizations and citizens’ groups in St. Louis, Rolla, Crystal City, Franklin County and the Kansas City area.

Great Rivers is the only nonprofit environmental law firm in Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Great Rivers Proudly Welcomes Sarah Rubenstein

Sarah joins Great Rivers as a staff attorney after gathering more than 20 years of successful litigation practice both in private practice and at the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at Washington University School of Law. In her previous work she has represented both individuals and companies in various environmental litigation matters including Clean Air and Water Act citizen suits, Superfund cost-recovery actions, toxic torts, and environmental property damage cases.

Sarah graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College in 1992 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1997, where she pursued her law degree out of her concern for and interest in protecting the environment. She is excited to be able to return full-time to her original mission.

“I am excited to join Great Rivers, as it will allow me to use my legal skills to help reduce pollution in our region. I look forward to working hand in hand with local stakeholders to help make our environment a better place for future generations.” – Sarah Rubenstein

When she is not fighting to preserve our natural world, Sarah can be found playing with her dogs, riding horses, tending her vegetable garden, or traveling the globe.

A Tribute to Joseph Logan by Kathleen Henry

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center mourns the loss of Joseph (“Joe”) P. Logan, who died Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at the age of 98. In 2008, Great Rivers presented Joe with Great Rivers’ first and only “Distinguished Service Award” for Joe’s unwavering support of Great Rivers.

Joe was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1921. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1942. He served in the Navy during World War II, as gunnery officer aboard the USS Hambleton DD 455 destroyer, and took part in the D-day landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944. After the war, he attended Harvard Law School and received his JD in 1948. He and his wife, Yvonne, were married in 1943 and lived in Webster Groves from 1951 until a few years ago, that is, when they were not up at Lake Michigan, sailing and swimming.

Joe joined the law offices of Thompson Coburn in 1948, where he worked until recently doing probate and estate planning. He was an active in volunteer work for the Ranken Jordan Home for Convalescent Crippled Children and the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves for more than four decades. In addition, he served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union for many years.

Joe has spent decades working for environmental groups. He was one of the earliest leaders of the Open Space Council, founded in 1965, the Open Space Foundation, founded in 1967, and of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, founded in 1969, and he assisted them well into the 1990’s. He showed his appreciation for the environment by going on countless float trips on Missouri streams with the Dreys, Buders and Greens. After a hard night on the gravel bars, this group started its mornings with a “Shannon County” juice, a mixture of gin and orange juice.

When Lewis Green was planning the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center during the years of 1998 to 2002, he often consulted Joe. After Lewis’ death in 2003, Joe continued to provide support to the Law Center. He organized the Tribute Dinner to Lewis Green in 2004 and served as Honorary Chairman of the Annual Dinner of Great Rivers in 2006 and 2007. Great Rivers is fortunate to have had Joe’s wisdom and support throughout the law center’s first six years.”

For all of our years, Joe continued his unwavering support of Great Rivers, attending our events and enthusiastically embracing our work. Joe was a dear friend and we will miss him.

Great Rivers Works to Help Fight Fracking in Illinois; Court Orders Records to be Made Public

A sustainable future which fulfills our needs for energy, employment, and habitation demands that we develop non-polluting technologies which do not threaten our soil, air or water. For this reason, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) established itself with the sole mission of banning fracking in Southern Illinois. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a method of oil and natural gas extraction that involves injecting fluid into subterranean rock formations at high pressure.

In 2014, SAFE filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), seeking a declaratory judgement that would find fracking unconstitutional in Illinois. The Constitution of Illinois has a provision that states that all citizens have “the right to a healthful environment.” The members of SAFE believe that horizontal fracking is a direct violation of this provision because of its destructive effects on the groundwater and citizen’s access to clean water.   

This summer, the attorneys representing SAFE reached out to Great Rivers Environmental Law Center for additional assistance on this case. Most recently the IDNR has filed a Motion for Protective Order, which would unnecessarily restrict the use of important documents. The judge promptly entered the Protective Order before SAFE’s attorneys had a chance to respond. Great Rivers’ Legal Intern, Jackson Ramsey, helped write a response to this motion demanding that the documents not be protected, as much of the information was already a part of the public record. Jackson also helped write a Motion to Vacate the Protective Order which was entered without an opportunity for SAFE to respond. On July 18, 2019, the attorneys for SAFE presented these arguments to the Judge and he ultimately ruled in their favor. Instead of allowing all the documents in the case to be blanketed by a protective order, he agreed that any information which was clearly part of the public record could be discovered. Furthermore, he put the burden on the IDNR to specify individual documents which it believed were confidential for the judge to rule on separately at a later date. This was a victory for SAFE as it will allow them to freely and openly use around 99% of the discovery documents to develop their case against the INDR. While a declaration that fracking in Illinois is unconstitutional is still far afield, the win on Thursday puts SAFE one step closer to securing cleaner energy in Illinois.

Jackson Ramsey is a second-year law student at St. Louis University School of Law. He studied Vocal Performance in undergrad at Loyola University New Orleans and lived as a musician for five years before law school. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, gardening, and rehabbing his house.

Water Quality Program Sees Victory! Great Rivers Confronts a Chronic Polluter of the Meramec River

River recreationists and wildlife shouldn’t be swimming in E coli, oil, grease and chlorine. That’s why when Great Rivers was approached by our client, the Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper, with concerns that a Valley Park Motomart gas station was discharging these pollutants into the Meramec River, we took the case.

The gas station’s own records showed that they were continuously discharging these substances at rates in violation of federal and state Clean Water Act laws for the last five years. And they weren’t small violations. Sampling done by the facility showed levels of E. coli at 24,200 colonies/100 ML of water, which is 192 times higher than allowed in its permit (126 colonies/100 ML of water). Worse still, these discharges were being made into the Meramec in an area frequently used by river recreationists.

“These discharges presented a direct and substantial threat to the water quality of the Meramec River,” shared Bob Menees, lead
attorney on the case
, “especially in light of the Meramec River’s status as an impaired water.”

On April 3, 2019, Great Rivers filed a formal notification that we intended to sue within 60 days if they did not remedy the violations. In response to our Notice of Intent, MotoMart took significant steps to address the pollution problems at its station. Recent sampling has shown that levels of E. coli that are now well within permitted levels. We are pleased to report these measurable results as we fight to protect the cleanliness and health of our shared waters.

Great Rivers Will Proudly Present the 2019 Lewis C. Green Environmental Service Award to Kathleen Henry

On Sunday, September 22, 2019, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center will present its Lewis C. Green Environmental Service Award to Kathleen Henry, environmental attorney and departing President of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

Ms. Henry will be recognized for her long-term commitment to providing legal aid to those seeking to preserve and protect the environment and public health.

Great Rivers presents this award annually to individuals or groups that have shown outstanding and extended commitment to the preservation of the environment and public health.

Great Rivers will honor Ms. Henry at a party at the Whittemore House on the campus of Washington University. Guests can enjoy a drink in the gazebo, music from a live string quartet, heavy appetizers- and, most importantly, the chance to thank Ms. Henry for her years of dedicated service. The event is open to the public; general admission tickets are $125 (Young Friends tickets available for $50!) and may be purchased here or by calling Great Rivers at 314-231-4181.

The award is named after the founder of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, the late Lewis C. Green, a leading environmental litigator in Missouri for many decades.