ST. LOUIS – Gov. Eric Greitens is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to let the state take care of pollution concerns in its own lakes and reservoirs.
The Republican governor on Monday submitted comment to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seeking approval for Missouri to implement its plan, rather than an EPA alternative, to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen runoff into lakes and slow the growth of algae blooms, which can harm people, fish and birds.
The EPA website says so-called nutrient pollution "is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems." Excessive amounts get into waterways from animal manure and fertilizer used at farms and elsewhere.
Missouri has been out of compliance with nutrient pollution provisions of the U.S. Clean Water Act since 2009, prompting a lawsuit filed in February 2016 by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. A settlement reached with EPA in December 2016 required a plan to be submitted within a year, and implemented by December 2018.
The state has been working on its own plan for months but failed to meet the December deadline, so the EPA last month posted a preliminary option of its own. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources estimates the EPA plan would cost $1.7 billion.
The Missouri Clean Water Commission on Thursday approved a plan that would cost a small fraction of the EPA's: $83.1 million. Greitens said in a posting on the web page linked to the EPA proposal that the state's alternative was developed in cooperation with farmers, municipalities and scientists.
An EPA spokesman said Tuesday that once Missouri formally submits its plan, the agency "will be in a better position to evaluate whether it meets the requirements of the Clean Water Act."
Alicia Lloyd, clean water policy coordinator for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said the Missouri plan would react to pollution only after it occurs, rather than trying to prevent it. She said it particularly falls short in ensuring safe drinking water.
"Our biggest concern is this is yet another instance of politics over science and public health," Lloyd said.
The EPA under Republican President Donald Trump has rolled back many environmental regulations. Greitens wrote that the EPA under Trump was put in a "tough spot" by the lawsuit settlement reached during the Democratic Obama administration.
"Right now, the EPA is considering a proposed federal rule that would severely hurt Missouri's families, farmers, cities, and businesses," Greitens wrote. He said the cost would be passed on to an estimated 500,000 families through higher sewer bills.
Several state agricultural groups and the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities support the state's plan.
"We anticipate this being the first of many steps rolling back burdensome regulations affecting not only Missouri farmers, but all Missourians," Gary Wheeler, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Association, said in a statement provided by Greitens' office.