Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Great visit to Springfield, MO

Sarah Willey, Great Rivers’ Director of Development and Community Outreach, spent a couple of days visiting Springfield last week. She was able to give presentations to two different groups, the Green County Democratic Alliance and the White River Group of the Missouri Sierra Club.

On Wednesday, October 11th, Sarah spoke to the Democratic Alliance about the importance of environmental law and citizen activism under an anti-environment political administration.

On Thursday, October 12th, Sarah spoke to the White River Group of the Missouri Sierra Club about the history of the Sierra Club’s use of environmental law as a tool in fulfilling their mission. Great Rivers has done a lot of work on behalf of the Missouri Sierra Club, and Sarah’s presentation shared the history of our organization and the ways that we have worked together in the past.

 

Join Us For a Fun Evening of Trivia!

Trivia Night Benefitting Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Saturday, 6:30-10:00 pm.
The Heights, 8001 Dale Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63117.
Purchase your tickets at brownpapertickets.com.

Thanks to our Sponsor Old Bakery Brewing Company!

Tickets are just $20 per person, or $160 for a table.

Cash prizes for 1st place ($160) and 2nd place ($80)! We’ll have lots of raffle items and a 50/50 raffle.

Free beer, soft drinks, and snacks provided with ticket purchase. Attendees are welcome to bring in additional food and beverage. (No glass bottles, please!)

Tables may have a maximum of 8 players. Tell us who you want to sit with as you place your order; we will do our best to accomodate all requests. We reserve the right to combine groups of 5 or less. (Make new friends!)

Missouri Proposes Ban on Commercial Trapping of Wild Turtles

For Immediate Release, October 3, 2017
Contact:
Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821, cadkins@biologicaldiversity.org
Bruce Morrison, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, (314) 231-4181,
bamorrison@greatriverslaw.org
Missouri Proposes Ban on Commercial Trapping of Wild Turtles
Thousands From State Rivers Have Been Caught, Sold
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.
In response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, the Missouri Department of Conservation yesterday proposed a ban on commercial collection of the state’s wild freshwater turtles — following a national trend of ending unsustainable turtle harvesting.
Under current law turtle traders can legally collect unlimited numbers of common snapping and softshell turtles to sell domestically or export for Asian food and medicinal markets.
Thousands of Missouri’s turtles have been caught and sold over the past 10 years. “I’m so glad Missouri is poised to do the right thing for its turtles,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science shows for-profit trapping is putting the state’s turtles at risk. If it’s finalized, this ban would protect the state’s turtles from trappers seeking to make a quick buck.”
Under current regulations in Missouri, holders of a commercial fishing permit may take unlimited numbers of common snappers, spiny softshells and smooth softshells from portions of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers with no closed season. According to the Department, 1,100 river miles are open to commercial turtle collection.
Scientists have repeatedly documented that freshwater turtles cannot sustain any significant level of wild collection without leading to population declines. For example, in a 2014 Missouri study researchers found that no commercial collection could be sustained for softshells and common snappers could withstand only minimum rates of juvenile collection and no adult collection.
“The survival of Missouri’s wildlife is in the hands of Missouri’s Department of Conservation,” said Bruce Morrison, general counsel for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “Thankfully the Department appears ready to take this step to protect these animals as a vital part of our State’s ecosystems.”
The public has 30 days to submit comments, which will be compiled and presented for consideration by the Missouri Conservation Commission. The state is expected to publish a final rule in February.
Background
Millions of turtles classified as wild-caught are exported from the United States every year to supply food and medicinal markets in Asia, where native turtle populations have already been depleted by soaring consumption. Because turtles bioaccumulate toxins from prey and burrow in contaminated sediment, turtle meat is often laced with mercury, PCBs and pesticides, posing a health risk. Adult turtles are also taken
from the wild to breed hatchlings for the international pet trade.
As part of a campaign to protect turtles in the United States, the Center for Biological
Diversity has been petitioning states that allow unrestricted commercial turtle collection to improve regulations. Of the states that share a border with Missouri, only Arkansas still allows unlimited commercial collection of turtles.
Just last week the Center and several Arkansas-based environmental organizations petitioned the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to end commercial collection of the state’s wild turtles. Also in September, Nevada created a statewide ban on the destructive commercial collection of all reptiles and New York halted all commercial terrapin turtle harvesting.
Before that, in March, Iowa adopted new regulations setting closed seasons and possession limits for commercial turtle trappers. In 2012 Georgia approved state rules regulating the commercial collection of turtles, and Alabama completely banned commercial collection. And in 2009 Florida responded by banning almost all commercial collection of freshwater turtles from public and private waters.
Common_Snapping_Turtle_Close_Up_Dakota_L_CC_BY-SA_FPWC

Common snapping turtle photo by Dakota L. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org
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. http://www.greatriverslaw.org

Great Rivers Celebrates 15 Years

On August 1st, 2017, Great Rivers staff and board invited our Friends to join us at lunchtime or after work to celebrate our 15th birthday.

AM The Cake.jpg

The delicious cake our guests enjoyed.

The two parties were a wonderful chance to interact with our supporters and reflect on the many victories we celebrated during our first 15 years.

AM Ken Signs the Poster

Guest Ken Denson signs the “guestbook” – a poster that now hangs in our office!

To see more photos of the event, visit our album!

Missouri Supreme Court Lets Stand Obstruction of State Renewable Energy Law

April 26, 2017
MISSOURI SUPREME COURT LETS STAND OBSTRUCTION OF STATE RENEWABLE ENERGY LAW
On April 25, 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court refused an opportunity to enforce the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), passed by voters in the 2008 election as Proposition C. Great Rivers Environmental Law Center had brought suit on behalf of the Missouri Coalitionfor the Environment (MCE), Missouri Solar Applications and taxpayer Thomas Sager. Great Rivers challenged the action of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), a standingcommittee of the Missouri legislature, for interfering with the rule passed by the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) to implement the law.
The RES requires the state’s investor-owned utilities (Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light, and Empire District Electric Company) to ramp up their use of renewable energy to at least 15% of the power they sell to their Missouri customers by 2021. JCAR struck down the “geographic sourcing” provisions of the regulation, with the result that utilities are not required to actually deliver renewable energy to Missouri but can instead buy pieces of paper called “renewable energy credits” from solar and wind projects in faraway places like California.
The Missouri Supreme Court held the case was moot because the Public Service Commission had published a new rule in the intervening years. The issue of JCAR actingunconstitutionally in striking key provisions is left undecided.
“The legislature took geographic sourcing out of the rule. The PSC never thought it could put it back in,” said Henry Robertson, a Great Rivers attorney representing the plaintiffs. “JCAR violated the separation of powers under the Missouri Constitution by interfering with a rule passed by an executive branch agency. The new rule perpetuated this unconstitutional act; it did not make it go away.”
“The decision was disappointing because it undermined the will of the people and the democratic process,” said Heather Navarro, Executive Director of MCE. “Luckily, the cost of renewable energy has come down so much that this decision won’t deter the growth and success of renewables, including the addition of thousands of jobs, that we’ve seen over the last few years.”
“The legislature has a long history of thwarting the vote of the people when they pass laws by ballot initiative,” said Robertson. “The Supreme Court missed a chance to redress this. Fortunately, renewable energy is here to stay even if the legislature and the utilities try to hold back the tide.”
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: http://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: http://www.moenvironment.org

North St. Louis Resident And Missouri Department of Natural Resources Reach Settlement To Issue Air Pollution Permit to Mallinckrodt

For immediate release: April 11, 2017

North St. Louis Resident And Missouri Department of Natural Resources Reach Settlement To Issue Air Pollution Permit to Mallinckrodt

ST. LOUIS, MO:
North St. Louis resident, Doug Eller, represented by Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, entered into a settlement agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (“MDNR”) which requires the agency to issue an air pollution permit to Mallinckrodt, Inc. by August 4, 2017. Eller’s complaint alleged that MDNR failed for twenty years to issue a Clean Air Act, Title V, Part 70 Air Pollution Control Operating Permit to Mallinckrodt, Inc., which prevented local residents from participating in the regulatory process and commenting on impacts to the air they breathe.
According to documents received by MDNR, Mallinckrodt submitted an application in 1997 to the agency for the permit, yet twenty years later, MDNR had never issued the permit. Mallinckrodt is one of the largest emitters of air pollutants in the City of St. Louis, including large quantities of sulfur dioxide (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter of 10 microns or less, particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, and greenhouse gases.
“We are pleased that after two decades, MDNR will finally allow the residents of North St. Louis to comment on air pollution that they breathe and that Mallinckrodt, one of the City’s largest emitters of air pollutants, will have the appropriate permit,” said Great Rivers Environmental Law Center’s Staff Attorney, Bob Menees.
The Administrative Hearing Commission will stay the proceedings to determine whether MDNR issues the permit according to the settlement agreement before the case is dismissed.
For more information, contact Bob Menees or Kathleen Henry at 314-231-4181
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: http://www.greatriverslaw.org

Great Rivers’ Suit Requesting Court to Prohibit St. Louis County From Selling a Portion of Sylvan Springs Park to the Department of Veterans Affairs for Use as a Cemetery Moves to the Court of Appeals

On January 23, 2017, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed an appeal in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, on behalf of three County taxpayers asking the Court to prohibit the County from selling a portion of Sylvan Springs Park to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Two appellants are former employees of the St. Louis County Parks Department, and one of those two is also a former employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a veteran of the Vietnam Era. All three are users of Sylvan Springs Park.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) seeks to purchase 38 acres of the 70-acre Park to use as a cemetery. St. Louis County has owned and operated Sylvan Springs Park as a park since 1950, when the County purchased the Park from the U.S. General Services Administration.

The VA wants the Park because the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery is running out of room. Even with the purchase of these 38 acres, the VA will run out of room at Sylvan Springs in approximately 17 years. Critics fear the VA will then seek the additional remaining 32 acres of Sylvan Springs, and even that would not be long-term solution. There are other large sites that have been presented to the VA as possible long-term solutions and that would last the VA for the next century or more, including one in Jefferson County and one in Illinois.

The lawsuit alleges the sale is illegal because the federal government dedicated the park to the County when it originally sold it to the County, and illegal because the County used bonds and taxes dedicated to parks that St. Louis County residents approved at the ballot box. The County has maintained it and the public has enjoyed it as a park for 65 years.

“For over twenty years I worked in the area of the Park and saw thousands of people enjoy it,” said plaintiff Martin Koch. “It would be a travesty to lose this resource of public recreation.”

            “A park is a park forever, or it’s not a park,” said Henry Robertson, attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

“Although many people feel the VA should have use of park land adjacent to an existing cemetery, the fact that an idea is popular does not make the sale of a park legal,” said Kathleen Henry, President of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “The VA should have invested in a long-term solution long ago instead of assuming it would take over this Park.”

The citizens request the Court of Appeals to reverse the lower court and to prohibit St. Louis County from selling a portion of Sylvan Springs Park to the VA for use as a cemetery.

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.