Legislation that could have given agriculture and mining industries more influence over Missouri’s water regulations was vetoed Tuesday by Gov. Jay Nixon.
House Bill 1713 was amended in the final days of the 2016 legislative session to include a provision altering the makeup of the state’s Clean Water Commission, which helps set and enforce water quality standards aimed at preventing pollution.
Currently, at least four of the seven members of the commission have to be members of the general public and no more than two can represent the agriculture and mining industries. The bill would alter that to say no more than four members from the public and at least two members from industry.
Nixon, a Democrat, said he vetoed the bill because it could result in a commission with no members from the general public, essentially turning control of water quality over to industries that cause water pollution.
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He called the bill a “blatant attempt to limit public oversight in favor of regulated interests.”
“This change would effectively pave the way for regulated interests to seize control of the commission and would eliminate the public’s voice in the water quality control efforts under the purview of the commission,” Nixon wrote in a letter to lawmakers explaining his veto.
The effort to change the makeup of the commission was the result of a decision it made to strip a large-scale animal feeding lot of its permit.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued a permit in August 2015 to Trenton Farms, a corporation in Pipestone, Minn., to build a facility to house 6,000-plus hogs in rural Grundy County, near the Iowa border.
The concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, would generate more than 90 tons of manure each year along with millions of gallons of wastewater.
The permit was then sent to the seven-member Clean Water Commission. Its job is to adopt regulations and policies to carry out the objectives of the federal Clean Water Law. On a 4-2 vote, the commission revoked the permit, saying the corporation behind the application had not proved it had the assets to maintain the facility or pay to clean up any potential accidents.
One member was absent from the vote.
Three of the four commissioners who voted to revoke the permit were representatives of the general public. The fourth represented waste water treatment plants.
Lawmakers first responded to the ruling by trying to pass legislation that would allow a company to keep its permit as long as it was registered with the state and in good standing. When that idea ran into opposition in the Senate, proponents attached the change to the Clean Water Commission membership as an amendment to an unrelated bill in the final week of the session.
It passed with little debate.
In vetoing the bill, Nixon noted that the provision was attached to legislation “late in the legislative process, and without a public hearing.”
Lawmakers will return to Jefferson City on Sept. 14 to consider whether to override any of Nixon’s vetoes. The bill passed the Senate with only two senators voting against it. In the House, it passed on a 112-37 vote — three more than the two-thirds majority needed for an override.