Coalition Report

By Heather Navarro,
Executive Director,

Missouri Coalition
for the Environment

We CAN and we ARE making a difference! 2018 in Review

After the legislative session closed in May, MCE sent out a report. It was a pretty dismal session for the environment but the last six months have shown that the power still rests with the people. While the legislature worked to remove local control to protect public health, St. Louis County voters stood up for their parks by voting to require all leases and sales of park land to go to the voters. And even though we have watched private interests take over the Clean Water Commission this year, Missourians passed sweeping ethics reform to make government more transparent and accountable to the public. Finally, after watching the General Assembly try unsuccessfully to reduce food assistance benefits for low-income people, voters statewide approved an increase in the minimum wage, helping people access healthy food, safe housing, and a cleaner environment overall.

While the warning bells for action on climate change rang louder this year, the United States government withdrew its efforts to collaborate on curbing carbon emissions. Luckily, local governments are taking climate change and its impacts seriously. For example, the City of St. Louis passed the 2018 International Building Code, incorporating the International Energy Conservation Code for new construction, making St. Louis one of the first cities in the Midwest to adopt the new code.

We can also close off the year with a win at the West Lake Landfill, the radioactive dumping ground in the Missouri River floodplain that has been threatened the last several years by an underground fire, tornadoes, and floods. The landfill sits in a seismic zone near a residential neighborhood, a hospital, and several businesses. For years, MCE and others have been advocating for a full clean up of the site. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to cap-and-leave the waste in an unlined quarry. Under public pressure to review that decision, the EPA spent the last few years studying the site and at the end of September announced a new plan that would remove up to 70% of the radioactive material. This decision marks the first time the U.S. government has committed to removing radioactive waste from the site and far exceeds their previous decision to leave it all where it is. We will continue to advocate for 100% removal and a buyout of the families nearby.

It is not hard to get discouraged reading about how our state and federal governments are rolling back protections for environmental and public health. However, the environmental movement of the 60’s and 70’s was born at a time when many of these regulations weren’t even around yet. We have more tools than we did 50 years ago to protect our natural resources. As we go into 2019, let our successes — the collaboration led by Open Space Council to save county, the adoption of forward-thinking green building codes by the city, and the giant leap forward to clean up West Lake Landfill, to name a few — propel us to even greater action.

For more information please visit our website www.moenvironment.org.