Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

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.

                                               

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!

A decision of the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri today results in a dual victory – protection of the rights of citizens to have their voices heard, and the halting of construction of a concrete plant which threatened the public health and local conservation.

Concerned Citizens Against Landvatter Ready Mix, along with an individual citizen, had appealed a Circuit Court decision upholding a Franklin County Commission rezoning of land to make way for a concrete plant. Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has represented these plaintiffs in this battle since 2014, when Landvatter Ready Mix, Inc. proposed to build a ready-mix concrete plant on tree-covered hills very near the Shaw Nature Reserve in Franklin County. There are 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.

Yard Near Proposed Concrete Plant

View of a local yard with tree-covered hills in the background near the proposted concrete plant site. Photo credit Kelly Brothers Mason.

At the hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission, the P & Z did allow the developer to speak, but refused to allow the public to speak before voting to rezone the space to allow the concrete plant to be built.

Kelly Brothers Mason, a resident whose house sits right between the Nature Reserve and the proposed concrete plant, said, “We were not allowed to voice our concerns to the Planning and Zoning board which makes the recommendation to the County Commission, and it approves recommendations 92% of the time. This concrete plant should not be built here; it belongs in an industrial park.”

“P & Z commissioners should look forward to hearing from people about how rezonings will affect them,” said Kathleen Henry, attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “Commissioners won’t know the effects of rezonings if they don’t allow people to speak.”

In a ruling issued May 15, 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri held that the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission deprived people of due process by not allowing them to speak before voting. People have a right to have their voices heard!

Residents are breathing a sigh of relief today, knowing that construction of the concrete plant has been halted, and this looming threat to the air quality and their health is not moving forward.

Local Activists Work to Restore the Osage River Downstream of Bagnell Dam.

Over the last two years, Norm Prenger and his neighbors have been working to restore the Osage River downstream of Bagnell Dam.  This community has been dealing with severe erosion issues, habitat loss and infrastructure impacts on this section of the lower Osage for decades.   In 2016 Great Rivers met with members of the community and saw the damage caused by the operation of Bagnell Dam first hand.  Land and a roadway continue to slide down into the River.

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View of the severe erosion problem along the lower Osage River.

There is renewed hope.  Over the past few months community members have been meeting with representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Lower Osage Flood Control Association, Ameren, the US Dept. of Agriculture, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources with the goal of addressing the harm.  We hope these efforts prove to be successful, and we stand ready to help this community if our services become needed.

NAACP and Ameren Missouri to Work Toward Providing Affordable, Renewable Energy to Low Income and Minority Communities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                        MEDIA CONTACT:
Bruce Morrison: bamorrison@greatriverslaw.org ; (314) 397-2474

St. Louis, MO—In a joint filing with the Missouri Public Service Commission on April 30, 2018, Ameren Missouri and the NAACP have agreed to work together to identify opportunities to provide affordable, renewable energy to persons who reside in low income and minority communities within Ameren Missouri’s service territory.

 “The more than 35 million families in the United States with incomes below twice the federal poverty level use approximately 30 percent of the nation’s residential electricity, but consistently are denied access to clean and affordable wind and solar- generated renewable power,” said Bruce Morrison, Missouri NAACP Environmental Justice Committee Chair and an attorney with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

Through its Environmental and Climate Justice Program, the NAACP works to address Environmental injustice, including the proliferation of climate change, which has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low income communities.

“At a time when there is growing recognition that Missouri is at the nexus between examining its energy landscape and planning for climate change impacts, the NAACP is compelled to advance an equity based analysis of our energy choices and effects on community well-being, and the environment on which we all rely for our existence,” said NAACP Missouri President Rod Chapel.

ABOUT THE NAACP:

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work by visiting NAACP.org.

ABOUT GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER:

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center 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. www.greatriverslaw.org

Great Rivers Files EPA Comments on West Lake Landfill on Behalf of NAACP

Great Rivers attorney Bob Menees filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the St. Louis County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on April 23, 2018. In these comments, we advocate for the maximum removal of radioactive waste possible.

On February 6, 2018, the EPA released its Proposed Record of Decision (ROD) for Operable Unit 1 (“OU-1”) at West Lake Landfill. The EPA signaled its preferred alternative of those they outlined was Alternative 4.

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EPA’s proposed alternatives for West Lake Landfill

As we explained in our comment letter to the EPA, only Alternative 7 can provide (1) long-term effectiveness and permanence, (2) a cost-effective solution that considers both long-term operation and maintenance costs and the potential for duplicative costs from groundwater contamination; and (3) a permanent solution to reduce toxicity, mobility, and volume of “radiologically impacted material” (RIM) at the site. Alternative 7 is the only alternative that will foster sustainable, cooperative, and regenerative St. Louis communities.

Click here to read our comment letter in full.