By Susan Reddenand Roger McKinney
State Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has pre-filed a bill that he said would put teeth into regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations and animal-parts recyclers such as Renewable Environmental Solutions if they violate state law.
The bill calls for any CAFO or animal-parts recycling companies that violate Missouri air, water or odor pollution standards more than once in three years to be subject to a surcharge in addition to a civil penalty. The surcharge would equal the civil penalty plus the sum of any fines assessed during the three years. The money would go to public education, and for enforcement of air and water pollution laws.
Another provision of the bill calls for any CAFO or animal-parts recycler that violates air, water or odor standards at least six times in one year or 12 times in three years to forfeit the operating permit and apply for a new one.
“It would increase the fines and create a mechanism to get the truly bad actors out of business, or at least out of our state,” Nodler said.
Two Carthage residents said they support Nodler’s effort to beef up enforcement, but that to make the legislation effective, the state needs to adopt stricter standards. Mayor Jim Woestman and Trisha Orr have been critical of odor problems they attribute to the RES plant in Carthage.
Woestman said the senator’s proposal “would add more penalties with violations, but right now, the state isn’t writing that many violations.”
The state has investigated many complaints, he said, “where it stinks, and bothers residents, but it isn’t quite bad enough for them to write a violation. The state is going to have to address the odor regulations before it would be any real help.”
Orr said, “It’s a step in the right direction, but it won’t help us much unless DNR (Department of Natural Resources) starts citing them.”
Officials with RES are not bothered by the proposal to beef up penalties and are “encouraged” by parts of the measure that address the development of alternative energy sources, said Glenna Watkins, local spokeswoman for the company. RES converts poultry byproducts into crude oil and other products
“We see any measure to advance alternative energy production as an encouraging sign for energy independence,” said Watkins, with Lee and Wyrsch Marketing, in Joplin.
Nodler said the DNR doesn’t have the authority to punish “bad actors,” but his bill would change that.
“DNR enforcement authority is weak,” Nodler said. “Fines are almost voluntary. They’re negotiation between DNR and the company. A lot of people have been critical of DNR because the responses have been weak.”
Nodler said some people have told him that the fines don’t mean much to large companies that pass the cost along to customers. He said even if that were correct, the provision for permit forfeiture should answer it.
“I’m convinced that DNR is very interested in developing defensible odor standards that would hold up in court,” he said. He said his bill doesn’t address the issue, but if he knew how to accomplish it, he would include it.
Nodler said this is his third attempt at getting the legislation passed. He said this year, the bill got through a committee but not to the Senate floor. He said that when the bill was passed out of committee, several amendments were attached to it, effectively dooming it.
He said that if his pre-filed bill gets through the Agriculture Committee in the upcoming session — as he predicts it will — the measure will become “the CAFO bill.” The legislative session begins Jan. 9.
“Immediately, it will be a target of amendments,” he said. He said he also would be alert for ways to attach his bill to other bills as an amendment.
He said he doesn’t expect opposition from corporate farming interests.
“I think there’s broad support in the Senate to support this bill,” Nodler said.
Orr, who lives just north of Carthage and who has been a frequent RES critic, wants to go further.
“There needs to be a moratorium,” she said.
The Missouri Air Conservation Commission will have a public meeting at 9 a.m. today at the Truman State Office Building in Jefferson City. The commission intends to offer direction on potential revisions to the state’s odor regulations.
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border="0">Senator launches bill to toughen CAFO laws<font color="#ff0000"> w/ summary and full text of Senate Bill 738</font>
By Susan Reddenand Roger McKinney
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