The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources heard testimonies on two bills concerning environmental regulations Monday.
Sponsored by Republican committee member Eric Burlison, SB 40 proposes a greater level of oversight for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources concerning issuing fines or penalties on businesses.
Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, spoke at the hearing.
He said the issue arose after several business-owning members of the association reached out about their inability to acquire detailed information regarding why they were being fined by the Department of Natural Resources and how much they were expected to pay.
McCarty said this hasn’t been an issue in the past. However, business owners he’s spoken to recently have been unable to obtain detailed explanations regarding the exact calculations of the fines being issued.
When a business or an individual is fined by the Department of Natural Resources, the department and the alleged violator attempt to work out an agreement.
If they can’t do so, the alleged violator can appeal and receive a breakdown of how the department came to the final cost of the fine, along with its exact reasoning.
Business owners want this breakdown when they are fined, not after they appeal to the department, McCarty said.
“We aren’t asking them to prepare something they haven’t already prepared,” McCarty said. “They obviously prepared it when they figured out what the total amount should be. We’re asking them to show their work.”
Republican Senator Mike Bernskoetter sponsored SB 37, which proposed modifications to the regulatory track of the potentially dangerous fertilizer anhydrous ammonia.
He and a few others who testified on the bill argued the Department of Agriculture should take full responsibility for regulating the chemical.
The fertilizer is currently regulated by multiple governmental bodies instead of just one. This causes confusion for farmers around the state who utilize the fertilizer on a daily basis, supporters said.
Tony Benz, deputy director and government consultant for the Missouri Agribusiness Association, testified in support of the bill.
“We have multiple agencies — state, federal — that are overseeing exactly the same duties,” Benz said. “We believe this is a good bill that streamlines that and makes it a little more clear for our members to know what rules they need to follow and when.”
Benz said the bill would be the first step in delegating the authority to administer the anhydrous ammonia from the EPA under the Clean Air Act to the Department of Natural Resources.
Rich Germinder, the director of policy and legislative affairs for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, spoke on behalf of the department. He said the department has been conducting research and will be prepared to provide adequate staff to regulate the chemical if the bill passes.