Coalition Report: Clean Water For All

By Heather Navarro, Executive Director
Coalition for the Environment

Without any fanfare an entire department of state government gave up its most basic functions of serving the environment and people and jumped into the pockets of private, for-profit interests. The mission of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had been pretty straightforward: … to protect our air, land and water; preserve our unique natural and historic places; and provide recreational and learning opportunities for everyone.”

However, the last time I was in Jefferson City for a meeting at DNR, the new statement read the mission “is to protect Missouri’s natural resources while promoting the environmentally sound operations of businesses, agriculture and industry in our interactions with the public.”

This development is troubling and dangerous. No longer is clean air, land, and water expressed as a priority; and the goal of serving everyone has been replaced with a goal of serving private, for-profit interests.

We are seeing the consequences of this change. The state of Missouri is six years behind in implementing water quality standards for excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. When EPA and a subsequent lawsuit by Missouri Coalition for the Environment prompted the state to get in line, DNR responded by submitting regulations it had already been told did not pass muster. Governor Greitens issued a press release rife with quotations from industry lobbyists to support his obstinance in complying.

DNR is composed of several commissions that oversee the regulation of air, land, and water. When the Clean Water Commission denied a permit for a factory farm the General Assembly passed a law that removed the requirement for a public majority on the Commission. In the last several months the public representatives have been replaced by the governor. Factory farm permits are being fast-tracked and environmental regulations are being watered down.

In November 2016, voters passed a renewal of the State Parks, Soil and Water Sales Tax in every county in Missouri. Since that time, DNR has put four parks on the chopping block. Instead of protecting parks, they are trying to sell them off. So much for providing recreational and learning opportunities for everyone.

The state of Missouri has a Department of Agriculture and a Department of Economic Development. However, this administration has co-opted the one department dedicated to protecting our natural resources and turned it into another vehicle for pushing private interests.

Words matter. The rewriting of the DNR mission statement denies all of us the environmental protection we pay for as taxpayers. Whether its parks, water quality standards, or air emissions, we cannot depend on state government to prioritize what is best for the public good. Vigilance is required of all of us. You can join MCE’s action center at moenvironment.org and be alerted when changes to policy and regulations are happening. When the government fails to protect the environment and public health it is up to us to hold it accountable.

For information visit www.moenviron.org.