Monday, October 17, 2011

Missouri DNR Fees Are Extended - Message From Bob Summers


Bob Summers

As I write this, the year is half over, the summer is here and our business is continuing to grow.  I don’t know if you kept up with the MoDNR fee issue this year but the statutes allowing the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) fee collection for wastewater discharge permits expired December 31, 2010.  While this has caused financial problems within the department most of us were concerned about the possibility of the EPA taking over these responsibilities.  

          I’m sure we all have a situation where MoDNR didn’t rule in our favor or didn’t approve a permit as fast as we would have wanted, but I don’t know of anyone who wanted the EPA managing the state’s clean water program. 

          Fortunately, on the second to last day of session the legislature approved HB 89, reinstating the fees that fund the water regulation programs in Missouri.  The fees are paid by commercial developers, home builders, utilities, manufacturers and livestock producers.  They expired in December 2010 and this legislation reinstates them with no increase, until September 2013.  The bill also requires the MoDNR director to conduct a study of fees and report back to the legislature. 

          House members gave the legislation final approval Thursday, sending it to Gov. Jay Nixon.  The bill included an emergency clause which allows it to take effect as soon and the Governor signs it, instead of having to wait until August 28th like other bills.

          Here is a copy of the summary outlining the fee authorization.

The bill removes the expiration date on the public notice requirements of the Clean Water
 Commission of the State of Missouri when listing any impaired waters of the state under
 Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act.  The commission's authority to charge
 fees for construction permits, operating permits, and operator's certifications related to 
water pollution control is extended from December 31, 2010, to September 1, 2013.
The Director of the Department of Natural Resources must conduct a comprehensive 
review of the water pollution fee structure including input from stakeholders.  The 
department director must submit a report to the General Assembly by December 31, 2012, 
including the findings and a recommended plan for the fee structure.
          This 56 page omnibus bill dealing with natural resources made many other changes to our laws. Some of the key changes effecting our water quality programs and DNR dealt with permit time periods, and appeals.  These changes were designed to speed up the permitting process by putting more responsibility on the department.  Time will tell how the new rules affect the permitting process in Missouri.  Here is the summery language concerning those provisions: 

In any case in which the Department of Natural Resources has not issued a permit or made a permit decision by the expiration of the statutorily required time frame, the permit must be issued as of the first day following the expiration if all the necessary information has been submitted for the application and the department has had the information for the duration of the required time frame.

(1)  Allows a potential permit applicant to appeal the terms and conditions of a water
pollution control general permit template to the Clean Water Commission within 30 
days of the issuance of the template by the department if the applicant can demonstrate
 that he or she is or may be adversely affected by any permit, term, or condition;
(2)  Specifies that the permit applicant has the burden of proof only for an appeal relating
 to the denial of a permit, license, or registration; but for all other appeals, the commission 
will have the burden of proof.  Currently, the burden of proof in an appeal hearing regarding
 the issuance of a water pollution control permit is on the permit applicant;
(3)  Authorizes the department to modify, reissue, or terminate a water pollution control 
permit at the request of the permit holder.  All requests must be in writing and contain facts 
or reasons in support of the request; and
(4)  Requires the department to implement permit shield provisions that are equivalent 
to the provisions implemented pursuant to federal law.
The Department of Natural Resources must make a determination regarding the affordability
 to communities and their residents of permit requirements and other department decisions 
related to combined or separate sanitary sewer systems or publicly-owned treatment works.  
 The affordability determination must be made prior to issuing a permit or rendering a decision. 
 If the department fails to make a determination, the proposed permit or decision will be void 
and unenforceable.  The bill specifies the criteria that the department must follow when making 
a determination.
          Passing this bill was the right thing to do and I hope you take the time to thank your legislator for dealing with this very important issue.  If you are a local govern official or you help supply water and waterwater services in Missouri I would encourage you to visit and look up HB 89. 
          It has been a busy year here at SSE and this issue is one we have monitored closely.  It has a direct impact on our ability to help communities all across Missouri with their water and wastewater needs.  Feel free to call me with any questions and I hope you have a fun and relaxing summer.

Bob Summers  

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