JEFFERSON CITY — The state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that may decide whether the Missouri Clean Water Commission’s current makeup, which is dominated by members of the agriculture and mining industries, is constitutional.
The case will also determine whether a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, in Grundy County violates clean water rules.
Hickory Neighbors United Inc., an organization from Grundy county, is appealing the decision by a Missouri Appellate Court. The organization argues the placement of the feeding operation violates a Federal Emergency Management Agency-designated 100-year floodplain: an area that is believed to have a 1% chance of flooding every year. The concern is the potential for a flood to contaminate nearby water sources with waste.
Hickory Neighbors United contested the Missouri Clean Water Commission’s decision to issue a permit on two fronts:
The members of the Clean Water Commission were appointed in a way favoring industry after an unconstitutional change to the rules of appointment. They argue the change was improperly tacked onto a bill, House Bill 1713, by the Missouri General Assembly, because it violated the “single subject, clear title and original purpose” provisions of the state constitution.
The floodplain study was not properly conducted or validated by an engineer, making the Commission’s ruling inappropriate.
“Relating to Water Systems,” the name of HB 1713, “really just isn’t broad enough,” said Stephen Jeffery, lawyer for Hickory Neighbors United.
Jeffery said an opposing attorney’s “argument that the Clean Water Commission regulates water systems is somewhat suspect in (his) view because the Clean Water Commission really doesn’t regulate the kind of water systems which were addressed in the context of that legislation.”
Trenton Farms, which owns the CAFO in Grundy County, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources argued that HB 1713 is entirely about water issues, and hazardous water and wastewater are a part of the same umbrella topic, therefore legal. They also argue that the floodplain study was compliant with regulations.
The court will offer a ruling after considering the arguments.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.