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August 22, 2005
Sierra Club objects to MDNR's "attitude change"

On the evening of August 12, Doyle Childers, Matt Blunt’s Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Director, announced that there would be an “attitude change” under his watch.

Mr. Childers stated that from now on, MDNR would assist those who have MDNR permits to comply with the law, rather than relying on enforcement actions. In essence, he stated that he preferred to use the carrot and not the stick, and he further stated that there would be a reduction in the number of cases referred to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) for legal actions.

This is a simplistic, naïve approach.

Mr. Childers makes the assumption that industry truly wants to abide by the law. Yet, the MDNR under current laws and regulations goes through a process of “conference, conciliation and persuasion”. Only after this lengthy process, taking up to one year, and after receiving no cooperation from the polluting industry, or receiving unrealized promises, is the case referred to the AGO. The various commissions that oversee MDNR have NOT been over-zealous in referring matters to the Attorney General; and refer only when all else has failed.

It is often more cost-efficient for industries to violate effluent and emission limitations than it is to comply. In these situations, and in the scenario outlined by Doyle Childers, industry has no incentive to comply with laws and regulations.

It should be further realized that permits (there are currently over 24,000) issued by MDNR are designed primarily to protect public health, BUT each permit also allows pollution of the air and water, within certain limits. If an industry violates those legal limits, human health suffers.

“The environmental laws are real and violations cause human health problems. It appears that Doyle Childers intends to coddle lawbreakers and harm human health. He is more inclined to protect polluters, than to prevent pollution. This would be akin to the Highway Patrol counseling speeders to ‘slow down’ rather than giving them a ticket for breaking the law”, stated Ken Midkiff, Conservation Chair of the Ozark (MO) Chapter Sierra Club.

Contact: Ken Midkiff