Environmental Law

First Regular Session of 98th General Assembly Brings Change to State Environmental Laws

This blog provides an overview of environmental or energy laws passed or amended by the Missouri legislature in the First Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly. This was an active legislative session with several amendments relevant to water, solid waste, oil and gas, and local government.

Clean Water Law

HB 92 amended the policy statement of the Missouri Clean Water Law by stating that it is the policy of this state to strive to meet the objectives of the Missouri Clean Water Law while maintaining maximum employment and full industrial development of this state. This also requires the Clean Water Commission to seek the accomplishment of the objectives of the law by all practical and economically feasible methods. It also requires the Department of Natural Resources to perform an affordability when issuing permits for discharges from water or sewer treatment works, in addition to discharges from certain publicly owned treatment works. Finally, this modifies the definition of “finding of affordability.”

HB 92 also amends the Missouri Department of Natural Resources permit decision appeal procedures by requiring applicants to the decision by filing a petition with the Administrative Hearing Commission rather than the current commission with jurisdiction. The AHC would then issue a recommended decision to the commission with jurisdiction to issue a final decision subject to judicial review. The law also prohibits the director of MDNR from revoking a permit, but allows the director to request legal action by the Attorney General for failure to correct a violation of the Clean Water Law. HB 92 also amends the definition of “waters of the state” by removing waters of the United States lying within the state from the definition.

SB 497 adds a requirement that a finding of affordability must be performed when issuing permits for discharges from water or sewer treatment works under the Clean Water Law and specifies the measurement for a finding of affordability.

Finally HB 511, which applies solely to St. Louis County, exempts certain annexations approved by a majority of property owners and by ordinance of any municipality that provides water and sanitary sewer service within the municipality from boundary commission review.

Solid Waste

HB 92 also amends laws related to audits of solid waste management districts by allowing the State Auditor to conduct such audits as he or she deems necessary and requires the district to reimburse the State Auditor for the costs of the audit by depositing money into the Petition Audit Revolving Trust Fund. This law also amends the relating to required independent financial statement audits of certain solid waste management districts. The law also requires MDNR to conduct a performance audit of grants to each district at least once every five years, adds textiles to the products that districts are required to address the recycling, reuse, and handling of in its solid waste management plan. The law also prohibits the executive board of a solid waste management district from performing solid waste management projects that compete with a qualified private enterprise. The law requires MDNR to prepare model solid waste management plans that include certain specific provisions.

Oil and Gas Production

SB 92 changes the composition of the State Oil and Gas Council by replacing a member from the Division of Geology and Land Survey with the State Geologist and removing the requirement that one of the public members be a resident of a third or fourth class county. This change also removes the Division of Geology and Land Survey from the advisory committee to the council and replaces it with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It also transfers authority from the State Oil and Gas Council to MDNR and amends the definition of “oil” to include hydrocarbons that do not flow to a wellhead but are produced by other means. It also creates the Oil and Gas Resources Fund and allows the State Oil and Gas Council to authorize MDNR to make a rule amending the fee structure for certain fees, requires a permit to be obtained from the State Geologist prior to commencing injection activities for oil and gas recovery or the disposal of fluid and allows the Council to request that the Attorney General bring a suit against a person for violation of oil and gas laws. Finally, it also requires a person seeking a permit for a non-commercial gas well to file a bond.

For an in-depth analysis or review of the potential implications of these legislative changes and amendments, please contact Shawna Bligh of Evans & Dixon, LLC at sbligh@evans-dixon.com.

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