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Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials blame state Sen. Brad Lager (R-Maryville) for terminating the department's ability to collect fees for State Operating Permits that fund the state's Water Protection Program for 2011. The bill that would have extended those funds was expected to pass on the last day of the legislative session in May, but Lager sent it to the Fiscal Oversight Committee for further review instead.
During an interview for this
Lager said that his failure to pass the bill wasn't part of some
diabolical scheme to undercut DNR's authority. Nor was his investigation
into the E. coli controversy at the Lake of the Ozarks an attempt to
smear Gov. Jay Nixon's administration, as the minority members of
Lager's commission on Commerce, Consumer
Protection, Energy and the Environment have alleged.
is not a Jay Nixon issue, so
I want to be really clear about that," Lager said. "DNR, fundamentally
structurally, this is a mindset they have carried for decades. It's
just consistently getting worse, and it's time for it to end."
Does he have some special animosity against Nixon's appointed head of
DNR, Mark Templeton? "All I know is, he (Templeton) grew up on
the East Coast and now he's here telling Midwest farmers and industry
how they should run their businesses," Lager said. So...yes?
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Lager said that he's been told by other senators that the DNR's water protection program has enough funds to continue to operate four to six months into 2011 without collecting permit fees. Lager promised he'd fast-track the bill to renew the fees at the beginning of the 2011 legislative session (assuming he is re-elected this November), if the DNR uses the time in the interim wisely.
First, Lager wants to see the DNR work with stakeholders -- meaning, the industrial and agricultural polluters that pay to discharge materials into the state's waters. "If you go back to the entire time we've had the Clean Water Act
in place, DNR has held a stakeholder group meeting," Lager said. "...That's happened under every director of DNR for, I don't know, 20 years, until now. Now, the DNR [isn't] even having stakeholder meetings, and the ones they did have, they didn't reach consensus. They couldn't work with stakeholders, and as a result, the people who are meeting with me and talking about clean water issues are people who feel like they're being unfairly treated by DNR."
Lager also wants to see the DNR make progress toward implementing real-time water testing. "One of the provisions in that (permit-fee-renewal) bill was for DNR to follow up on that and come back to the general assembly with a plan to do it -- what does it cost and what do we need to do to make that a reality in this state?"
Functionally, the DNR's water program hasn't changed, Lager said, and the fee-collecting abilities will be restored if his bill's provisions are met by January. "But for DNR to continue to stall, to not provide leadership, and to not advance this initiative, meaning not having stakeholder meetings, not working with all the industries to get to a structure that everyone can live with -- to do nothing between today and the end of the year -- is unacceptable."