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City Beat: Council backs new state CAFO bill

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Springfield City Council on Dec. 16 heard a resolution from councilmen Mike Schilling and Andrew Lear to object to the passage of Missouri Senate Bill 391 regarding the restriction of local control of concentrated animal feeding operations. It ultimately failed.

“The intent is to underscore a concern about undermining local control in a very critical way with the confined animal feeding operations, which is receiving a lot of attention throughout the nation, especially with hog production and how much sewage they create,” Schilling said.

SB 391 prohibits county commissions and health center boards from imposing standards or requirements stricter than the state’s regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations, dubbed CAFOs.

Lear said a number of constituents brought the issue to him. The sponsors say the resolution carried no legislative weight but was made to show concern from Springfield representatives that they opposed the state’s decision.

Schilling said the state Clean Water Commission denied an application for a hog CAFO in north central Missouri a few years ago.

“In the wake of that, the forces for industrial hog production put pressure on to restructure the commission to take away public members and put on people from special interests,” Schilling said.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed SB 391 into law in August. A related House of Representatives bill, HB 1713, also drew criticism from the public speakers at the council meeting. HB 1713, passed in 2016, authorized the Clean Water Commission to restructure.

Todd Parnell, a Springfield resident and former banker, addressed council with an up-close perspective. He served on the Missouri Clean Water Commission for 10 years and was chairman for two and a half years.

“I saw a steady erosion of state protections and regulations,” he said of CAFOs, citing an example from 2015, when the legislature removed the construction permit requirement and proof for financial liability for CAFOs. “It basically hamstrung the Clean Water Commission in terms of enforcing any regulations. Now, you didn’t have to prove your construction plan made sense.”

Prior to the passage of HB 1713, four of the seven members had to be public representatives, Parnell said.

“They eliminated that requirement,” he said.

Three others addressed Springfield City Council in favor of the resolution. However, it failed by a 5-4 vote, with councilmen Lear, Schilling, Abe McGull and Craig Hosmer voting in favor.

Mayor Ken McClure opposed the city resolution, pointing to SB 391’s overwhelming support in the House and Senate. The bill passed by margins of 103-41 in the House and 23-11 in the Senate.

“Passing this resolution, in my opinion, will not help our community and may well hurt it,” McClure said. “This is not about making our lawmakers upset; it’s about working with them to not make it more difficult to do their jobs in representing our community.”

Sewer rate increase
Council heard a bill for the Environmental Services Department to begin sewer rate increases on July 1, 2020, and continuing over a three-year period.

“On average, customers will see about a 5% increase in their sewer bill, which equates to about $1.80 per month for an average residential user,” said Errin Kemper, the department’s director.

Users will see a basic customer charge increase to $20.89 per month, from $18.52, with the volume charge also increasing 4% to $2.50 per each 100 cubic feet of water.

Increases will continue into July 2023, when the basic customer charge rises to $23.34 per month and the additional volume charge increases to $2.71 per each 100 cubic feet of water.

There is no distinction between commercial and residential customers, Kemper said.

He said the rate hikes are to provide funding for additional debt service cost of complying with the Clean Water Act and Missouri Department of Natural Resources mandates.

“One of our more significant concerns is stormwater inflow infiltration, which gets into the sewer system through cracks in the manholes and pipes and through private connections,” Kemper said. “This leads to sanitary sewer overflows, which are prohibited by the federal Clean Water Act.”

In May 2012, city and Missouri DNR officials negotiated an amendment consent judgment to spend $200 million over 10 years, or until 2025, through the city’s Overflow Control Plan. Council approved the plan in 2015.

At the time, Kemper said it was estimated rates would need to increase 6% a year to support the overflow plan.

“Additional rate increases are needed to continue working through the goals and projects outlined,” Kemper said.

Council is scheduled to vote Jan. 13.

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