Move to stack clean water panel with farm-friendly allies wins round in court

 

By Kurt Erickson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

via Houston Herald (MO) - Jan 4, 2019

 

JEFFERSON CITY • A Republican led effort to stack the state’s Clean Water Commission with farm-friendly appointees has survived a court challenge.

 

In a ruling issued Tuesday, Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the commission to grant a permit for a large factory hog farm in Grundy County.

 

In doing so, the judges rejected arguments by opponents of the hog farm that the members appointed by former Gov. Eric Greitens had conflicts of interest because of their ties to agriculture.

 

“The due process basis for disqualifying a commissioner from participating in a proceeding before an administrative agency thus requires proof of actual bias or the probability of actual bias, as distinguished from the mere appearance of an impropriety sufficient to require judicial recusal,” the decision said.

 

At issue is a 6,000-plus swine operation planned near the northern Missouri town of Trenton. A coalition of nearby residents known as Hickory Neighbors has been fighting construction since 2015, arguing the facility could pollute the region’s water and air.

 

The Minnesota-based company said it will annually apply about 4.4 million gallons of manure on 784 acres of nearby fields.

 

In 2016, Missouri’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation that would give farming and mining companies a larger say in the state’s water policies. Nixon is a Democrat.

 

Supporters said the change in the membership of the Clean Water Commission was needed because members of the public lack the expertise to make good decisions regarding the effects of industry on the state’s waterways.

 

Opponents said it would allow future governors to stack the board with members who represent industries that pollute.

 

With the law in place, Greitens named a trio of new members in 2017, including Stan Coday, John Kleiboeker and Pat Thomas.

 

Coday is a farmer and retired agriculture teacher from Mansfield, Mo. He also serves as president of the Wright County Farm Bureau.

 

Kleiboeker is the owner of Kleiboeker’s Clover Creek Farms in Stotts City and previously served as the executive director of the Missouri Beef Industry Council.

 

He has since left the board.

 

Thomas, at the time, was the chief of staff...

 

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