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Legislative Wrap-Up

The Missouri General Assembly ended the first regular session of 2011 at 6 PM on Friday, May 13. It was a difficult year for the legislators and for environmental advocates. Below is a summary the 2011 session.

New update:  Visit our 2011 Legislative Standouts page for a report of “Cheers and Jeers,” highlighting specific elected officials who voted for and against progressive environmental legislation during this year’s session.

Going into this session:

Last November, Missourians elected a near record number of new legislators. The 2011 General Assembly included 78 of the 163 new House members; 19 of 34 Senators had served for less than 2 years.

It was an unusual session with a lot of time taken up on big issues like unemployment, federal budgets, and redistricting. However, in the end House and the Senate passed and agreed to 149 bills.

Environmental Legislation:

Some of these bills passed this session helped protect our natural resources; others were an attack on our right to protect our property and our health. We’ll highlight some of the good outcomes from the session, and some of the bad.

The good

Nuclear plant permit attempt was killed

Ameren UE’s attempt to have ratepayers finance $45 million for an early site permit for a potential second nuclear plant in Callaway County, Missouri, was fortunately rebuffed in the final days of the session.

The utility’s bid to overturn the ban on Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) was seen as an opening gambit for a larger attempt down the road to pass on to ratepayers the $6+billion cost of constructing the second nuclear plant. Normally if a utility wants to build a new power plant, it must pay for the construction on its own, like any other business. They can pay for it either from savings or money from investors. However the utilities wanted you to pay for their construction costs upfront.

Missouri Votes Conservation opposes the repeal of CWIP because we believe that the exorbitant costs of a new nuclear plant are far better invested in other technologies, including energy efficiency and renewable. Indeed, Ameren officials have been quoted as saying they can meet their energy demands for the next 20 years on energy efficiency alone.

This year CWIP did not pass, mostly because of the bill itself. Members of the House tried to add Ameren’s bill to every piece of legislation dealing with energy. The Senate refused to vote on CWIP and therefore nothing passed this session related to electricity.

Support for natural resources protection Legislators took steps to pass several bills to protect Missouri’s precious natural resources. One of these was the omnibus bill HB 89, which contained a number of measures we supported. Among them was the reinstatement of water pollution permit fees until 2013, which are essential for DNR to adequately perform its role in the EPA’s clean water act. Another provision of the bill protects the State Parks Fund surplus from being swept into General Revenue. This is essential because the voters expect their Parks and Soil sales tax to fund the State Parks and not other State programs.

A third provision speeds up water testing and creates a committee to examine the fee structure of the water permit system. This is a welcome step that could set the stage for a more thorough and fair analysis of how polluting industries underwrite the state’s clean water enforcement and permitting program.

Another bill that passed was HB 190, which will allow the Department of Natural Resources to accept cash payments at State Offices. And finally, SB 356 provides a tax exemption for farmers’ markets and continues the Urban Agriculture Committee.

The Bad

Some of the legislature’s actions this session were not what we hoped for. SB 187, for example, was a gift to large corporate agriculture. If a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is found to cause a temporary nuisance (from the smells created by a massive number of animals), and they continue to fail to correct the problem. A second successful lawsuit will be for a permanent nuisance instead of a temporary. However, the original agriculture nuisance bill, HB 209, was much more egregious and was vetoed by the governor thanks to the outcry from people like you.

No fix for the Missouri Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). In 2008, you and 66% of Missourians voted for Proposition C, which mandates that 15% of electricity will come from renewable sources (like wind and solar) by 2021. When you voted, you no doubt expected that the renewable electricity would be sourced in-state. However, the state Public Service Commission and the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) overturned the geographical sourcing rules.

MVC supported a bill (HB 613) aimed at correcting Prop C and at creating the green jobs that the original measure promised. Unfortunately, HB 613 never passed out of the House because CWIP was added to the bill and the Senate would not vote for any bills with CWIP attached.

In addition unlike last year, our Energy Efficient State Buildings bill HB 267 did not even receive a vote this session. Last year our “Green Buildings bill” passed the House with a vote of 137-9 as part of an energy omnibus bill. We will continue to educate the legislators as well as the building managers throughout the state on the savings achievable by building “green”.