Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

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:

Guest Column: Fred the Turtle Has Something to Say

Hi, my name is Fred, and I’m a snapping turtle. I live on the banks of a little pond near Steelville, Missouri, and I have cousins all across the state! I want to talk to you about Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, and how you can help them protect my family and my home.

I’m really excited because Great Rivers was able to get the Missouri Department of Conservation to pass a ban on commercial turtle trapping – this was big news for me and my family! We sleep much easier now, let me tell you! We were seeing a lot of decline in our population – we don’t reproduce nearly as quickly as rabbits and deer! – and now we know more of our children will live to adulthood and we’ll maintain our place in the ecosystem.

Great Rivers has made Missouri a safer place for turtles like me – and we have people like you to thank for that!

When you donate to Great Rivers, you help protect the environment across the state of Missouri and southern Illinois when you support Great Rivers. Sometimes that means helping wildlife like me, or the monarch butterflies that rely on native milkweed plants, which some cities don’t want residents to grow! Your dollars are helping to change those outdated city ordinances. You’re also helping save public parks, reduce air and water pollution, increase the amount of clean energy on the grid, and preserve wetland habitat. Great Rivers provides legal resources to the people who are fighting for the environment, because you make it possible for them to be ready when a call for help comes in!

I’m asking you today if you can please give a donation today to continue to make sure legal resources are available for the local environment.

Giving is easy! Jiust go to www.greatriverslaw.org/donate and use your credit or debit card.

Thank you so much for your support of Missouri’s environment!

Fred the Turtle Clip Art.png

 

 

Fred the Turtle, Friend of Great Rivers

 

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.

IMG_0100.jpg

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.

Capture.PNG

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.

Great Rivers Urges DNR to Protect Human Health in Sewage Treatment Plant in North St. Louis

April 16, 2018. On behalf of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP and two North St. Louis City residents, Great Rivers filed Comments urging the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to require the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District (“MSD”) to use better public participation practices and to dispose of sewage using anaerobic digestion, methane capture technology, and landfill disposal rather than incineration, because the former leads to better health outcomes, is more economical and is more environmentally friendly.

Residents in North St. Louis City can see a constant trickle of green and yellow haze coming from the stack at Bissell Point after incineration. This may have been an acceptable practice in 1967 when the SSIs were constructed, but is no longer acceptable as a means to address disposal of wastewater sludge. Notably, MSD shut down Incinerator #6, constructed in 1991, which would have been subject to stricter New Source Performance Standards and which would have required reductions in the amounts of pollutants being emitted into the air of St. Louis City residents. Instead, MSD has opted to use four incinerators from 1967 that are exempt from stricter regulation, that continue to leak toxic pollutants into the St. Louis City’s ambient air, and that disproportionately affect low income and minority populations in North St. Louis City, including the Hyde Park, College Hill, and Old North neighborhoods.

Great Rivers urges the DNR to make the permit more protective of human health.

Chocolate Threatened by Climate Change!

Did you know that climate change threatens chocolate? In fact, a 2011 study by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) caused a stir when it suggested that chocolate may go extinct, and that production is expected to decrease noticeably by the year 2030, and the fate of the chocolate market beyond 2050 looks grim. The rising global temperature is expected to make the growing conditions inhospitable for the cocoa plants that produce chocolate in the western African countries who supply a large portion of the globe’s supply of chocolate.

Chocolate Earth Melting.jpg

Scientists and farmers are working hard on identifying how to maintain production as the world warms – such as selectively breeding varieties of cocoa that will withstand the rising temperature and trying out new cultivation methods. (Read more here.)

In the meantime, Great Rivers is working locally to address climate change – for the sake of chocolate, a favorite treat in the office, and for so many other reasons. Our Climate and Energy Program works to promote public health and to decrease carbon pollution by encouraging cleaner energy. Your support makes this possible.

On Sunday, May 6th, 2018, we will hold an event at the Caramel Room at Bissinger’s Chocolate Factory. By attending “Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory,” you directly impact the local environment and public health – so not only do you get to come savor chocolate, but you’ll know you are helping to save it, too. For the love of chocolate, reserve your ticket today at: https://greatriverslaw.org/events/event-ticketing/

Great Rivers at the Chocolate Factory 1