AIM bill to ensure state environmental regs are no stricter than federal passes on final day
Updated: May 14, 2022
May 13, 2022 - One of the last bills passed by the Missouri General Assembly in the final hours of the 2022 Legislative Session would finally limit state Missouri hazardous waste regulations so they may not be stricter than federal statutes and regulations. A similar provision exists in the law regarding Missouri's air and water environmental regulations. The bill also paves the way for advanced recycling of plastics, allowing them to be converted to other usable products.
"Associated Industries of Missouri has worked hard on this legislation for many years," said Ray McCarty, president/CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. "We are very happy to see the Missouri legislature take action to ensure our state level environmental agency that exists to help Missourians and Missouri businesses comply with environmental regulations does that without becoming more onerous than the federal government."
Contrary to some press reports to the contrary, the bill would not reduce environmental regulation in Missouri, but it would prevent state regulators from basing their actions on anything other than federal statutes, federal regulations, or state statutes. The bill specifically excludes the Brownfields program.
Under prior leadership at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, an effort was started to make state regulations more strict than federal regulations and laws. The agency based their action on guidance documents that suggested lower limits on certain chemicals - limits far below federal statute or regulations required and some near background levels. Guidance documents are not subject to legislative review by elected representatives or senators, nor are they subject to public input requirements of properly promulgated regulations. In fact, they are, as the name implies, guidance issued by appointed bureaucrats - not elected representatives of the people.
During the Trump administration, federal agencies were ordered to clearly state on all such guidance documents that such documents should not be relied upon by state agencies in enacting regulations. The guidance documents upon which the Missouri Department of Natural Resources based their proposed revision of state regulations contained this statement. After objections were raised by Associated Industries of Missouri and many in the regulated community, the Department decided to take a longer look at those proposed regulations.
This statutory change will clarify that Missouri lawmakers intend for the Department to only enact regulations that do not exceed requirements of federal statutes and regulations. Rather than basing their regulations on memos from federal appointees and their staff, they should base them on properly enacted statutes and regulations. Similar provisions have existed for years in the state's air and water programs.
The bill also requires the Department to "show their work" when issuing penalties for environmental violations. The Department formerly provided such calculations so the recipient of the penalty could determine whether they agreed with the penalty or not.
The bill also contains new provisions allowing advanced recycling facilities to operate as manufacturers rather than solid waste facilities. Such facilities would turn discarded plastic into new plastics, reducing the amount of plastic in the landfill and creating new products out of the former waste.
The bill, HB 2485, was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Knight and handled in the Senate by Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin. The "no stricter than" provisions were added by Sen. Eric Burlison. The bill now goes to Governor Parson for his approval. We heartily encourage Governor Parson to sign this common-sense legislation and will be working with his office to that end.