May 29, 2013
The Honorable Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon
Governor of Missouri
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
RE: House Bill 650
Dear Governor Nixon,
As Missouri’s premier business trade association, we strongly urge you to sign House Bill 650.
The bill would resolve long-standing issues concerning the procedure by which permit fees are adjusted. This bill creates a process whereby the Hazardous Waste, Air Conservation and Clean Water Commissions set fees based upon stakeholder agreement and a two-thirds majority commission vote. This statutory scheme for setting permit fees has a ten year sunset at which time lawmakers may reassess whether this new process has been successful. We believe allowing stakeholders a voice in permit fees is important.
The bill streamlines the water permitting process by combining the construction and operating permit review processes. Industrial facilities are required to obtain an operating permit, but must design all construction activities in accordance with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) design guides, design the project in accordance with a professional engineer’s designs and plans, and allow the department to conduct a post-construction site inspection to ensure the facility was constructed properly. This process will not only protect the environment but also streamline the process which reduces costs and the expense of permitting for both the private sector and MDNR.
The bill would cap punitive damage awards against legacy mining operations at $2.5 million. The current legal environment allows unlimited punitive damage awards in those cases filed in the City of St. Louis before the effective date of the tort reform measure passed in 2005. These unlimited punitive damages threaten the security of 1,600 Missourians employed directly by the Doe Run Company and many others that are employed by Doe Run’s suppliers. As you know, the purpose of punitive damages is to ensure a company ceases a particular practice. In these cases, Doe Run is a successor to other companies that have already ceased operations and the exemption contained in this bill is only for a company that is making a good faith effort to clean up these sites where mining ended 40 years ago. Also, if these punitive damages are left unlimited, the economic viability of the Doe Run Company may be in jeopardy, along with the economic security of their employees and suppliers and the vast remediation work the Company performs. It is in the public’s best interest for Doe Run to continue their significant contribution to remediation efforts and driving them out of business is simply not the best solution for Missouri.
Finally, the bill allows the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to issue temporary variances for water permits during extended periods of drought and extremely high temperatures. This authority is necessary and reasonable when such conditions would otherwise drive a company into non-compliance simply because of such drought and extreme heat conditions.
Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you for your consideration.