Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

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: 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

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: 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.