Update: Halfway through the 2021 legislative session

We have reached the second half of the 2021 legislative session in Missouri. Curious what Missouri legislature and Environment Missouri have been up to?

Image of the Missouri Capitol building in Jefferson City, Missouri
Missouri Capitol- image by David Mark via Pixabay
Bridget Sanderson

Former State Director, Environment Missouri

We have officially reached the halfway point in the legislative process in Missouri. Curious what the Missouri legislature and Environment Missouri have been up to the past 3 months? Here is an update for you. 

Right to Repair- 

We use and throw away too much, and electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing part of the waste stream. Meanwhile, the companies that make modern electronic equipment actively restrict our ability to repair their products. Many manufacturers make repairs proprietary, so that the only place those goods can be repaired is from the manufacturing company, in some cases making repair impossible altogether. When the manufacturer is the only option for repair, they can drive up the costs or push consumers to upgrade. We need to empower more repair to cut down on e-waste. Across the United States, right to repair legislation has been ramping up. There are currently 25 different states who have currently introduced right to repair legislation. In Missouri, we have two different right to repair bills, HB 975 / HB 1118. Both bills are very similar and have strong bipartisan support, however, they focus on different industries. 

HB 975 focuses on agricultural equipment and heavy construction machinery as ways to allow the right to repair. In Missouri, farming is a large source of revenue in the state. Many small farmers and third-party repair shops will benefit greatly from this bill passing through the legislature. Recently, the Agricultural Policy Committee held a public hearing for this bill. While some dealerships and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) came to testify against, Environment Missouri had a few right to repair leaders on this committee. Representative Barry Hovis (R-146), who sat on this committee last legislative session, was the bill sponsor. He was accompanied by Representative Tracy McCreery (D-88), who introduced the e-waste right to repair legislation in Missouri, and Representative Emily Weber (D-24), who filed the comparable e-waste bill this session. While the OEM and dealership lobbyists came with their standard topics; Missouri farmers will override safety and emissions standards. Environment Missouri has more confidence in the Missouri farmer, overriding these standards is already against the law, and this bill does not protect modification, instead it gives farmers the right to repair their equipment through any repair technician of their choice. Please read through our entire testimony in support of HB 975 here. We also released a report titled Deere in the Headlights, to illustrate the struggles that Missouri farmers face for repair and published this opinion piece in The Missouri Times.

HB 1118 has a more general approach to our electronic waste (e-waste) repair compared to HB 975. This bill encompases more of the environmental damages that e-waste delivers to our earth. In America, we discard over 416,000 cell phones a day, and approximately 7,200 per day in Missouri. While only 15-20 percent of our e-waste is recycled. Our electronics strip our land of precious and rare earth metals coupled with a lack of safe, recycling options leave these finite resources in our landfills. For a deeper look into What are Missourians Fixing illustrating that Missourians want to fix their consumer goods. This bill has not received a committee assignment but we look forward to working with Representative Emily Weber in order to push this legislation forward in Missouri. 

No Bees, No Food-

Millions of bees are dying off at alarming rates, with disturbing consequences for our environment and our food supply. We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90% of most of the world’s food. Imagine no almonds, fewer apples and strawberries, less alfalfa to feed dairy cows, and the list goes on. One important way to protect our bees is to stop the use of bee-killing pesticides such as neonicotinoids.

HB 1351 will ban glyphosate and neonicotinoids in the state of Missouri. While this bill allows for the use of these chemicals that are purchased before December 31, 2021, this bill will still help protect our favorite pollinators. Environment Missouri believes that Missouri farmers can be our best champions of sustainable farming practices and that includes disuse of neonicotinoids. This bill has not received a committee assignment but we will continue to work on banning neonicotinoids because we know Missourians care about the health of our pollinators. 

Wildlife Over Waste-

Every day, people are throwing away tons of single use cups, containers, and other plastic “stuff.” All of this waste not only trashes our parks and public spaces, but washes into our rivers, where it’s harmful to wildlife and pollutes our drinking water. Toxic chemicals in plastic can harm animals’ health– and people can ingest these chemicals as they make their way up the food chain. In 2015 the Missouri General Assembly passed HB 722 that put a preemption law in place that restricts local governments from enacting plastic bag bans or regulations. This was a result of the plans for a plastic bag tax in the city of Columbia, Missouri. There have been attempts in previous legislative sessions to expand this preemption to include polystyrene and plastic straws. 

HB 227 repeals the plastic bag preemption bill that was passed in 2015. Environment Missouri believes that local municipalities should have control over their plastic waste. Representative Ingrid Burnett (D-19) originally filed this bill in 2020 and again this year. It has yet to receive a committee assignment and unfortunately it looks like it will not be heard this legislative session. However, Environment Missouri will continue to work to reduce our plastic waste in the state. Missouri is in a unique position to reduce plastic waste draining into the ocean considering the Missouri River and Mississippi River border both sides of the state. Because nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our rivers and threaten our wildlife for centuries.

Clean Energy for Missouri- 

There have been many bills in the 2021 legislative session focusing on energy issues. Environment Missouri has testified for and against some of the most important bills in the session while working to mobilize our members and citizens across the state. Missourians support clean, renewable energy to power the state. In 2008, Missouri voters passed the Missouri Clean Energy Act with 66% of the vote, which set a target for Missouri to generate 15 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2021. Wind and solar energy are abundant in Missouri and the technology to access these clean energy sources are becoming less expensive and more reliable. 

HB 488/SB 230 these bills are attempting to place a preemption (ban) on cities and counties from restricting any type of energy source. Many cities across the country are introducing electrification legislation, meaning that they will not allow construction of new natural gas infrastructure with retrofitting measures for older homes hooked up to gas. Currently, in Missouri no city or county is currently seeking this type of resolution. However, this is a nation-wide attempt from the gas industry to prevent any other cities from proceeding forward on this progressive environmental action. Environment Missouri supports local control because locally elected officials are the responsible party to set building codes for their city. They are the most attuned to what their city needs and the best routes to make their community resilient to climate change. HB 488 passed out of committee and a Renewable Natural Gas program was added as an amendment during the first House floor hearing. SB 230 passed out of the Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and Environment Committee and is waiting for a floor hearing. Read our testimony opposing both bills. 

HB 261 allows for electric utility companies to place the financial burden of construction of nuclear power plants and is referred to the “Missouri Nuclear Clean Power Act.” There are many issues with this bill. Environment Missouri does not support construction of new nuclear power plants. We have seen the environmental instability of nuclear power plants during power outage situations, nuclear power is not a clean source of energy. Also, placing the financial responsibility onto customers for a source of electricity that they can not use until construction is a consumer rights issue. This bill has passed out of the Utilities Committee, you can read our opposing testimony here

HB 527 will block the construction of the Grain Belt Express, which, when constructed will become a transmission line carrying abundant, clean wind energy from Kansas, through Missouri, to Indiana. This bill has been introduced several times in the past and is preventing the company, Invenergy, from acquiring land through eminent domain. It is a general consensus in the Missouri legislature that no one likes eminent domain issues. However, set by our state’s regulatory board, the Public Service Commission (PSC), granted the choice of eminent domain because there is a need for the Grain Belt Express and the service promotes the public interest. This bill is regressive and overrules the PSC’s decision. Currently, this bill passed out of the House and is waiting for a hearing in the Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Commission. We need more renewable energy in our state and the Grain Belt Express is one way we can provide Missourians with abundant wind energy. Please read our testimony opposing this bill here.

HB 539/SB 178 these corresponding bills are the anti-net metering bills in Missouri. We have seen many of these bills spring up across the nation. They are  an attempt to stop the financial incentives provided to citizens who choose to place solar panels on their rooftops. Our energy grid is an antiquated, rigid system and rooftop solar helps to decentralize our energy sector. However, utility companies continue to tout that Missourians with solar panels are making rates more expensive for their neighbors. Environment Missouri supports a Value of Solar study and when these are done well, solar users actually add a benefit to their neighbors. We believe that net-metering, which incentivizes solar users to sell their excess electricity to their utility companies, is a way to increase rooftop solar and decrease our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. Here is our testimony opposing both forms of this bill. 

HB 1388 will update the Renewable Energy Standard, set in place by the Missouri Clean Energy Act. If passed, this bill will add Missouri to the list of states aiming for 100 percent renewable energy for the state. It is an incremental increase of renewable energy targets by reaching 100 percent by 2056. Missouri is still incredibly dependent on fossil fuels to power our homes and businesses, in 2019 our grid was dependent on 73% coal fired energy, and we know that to curb the worst aspects of climate change Missouri needs more renewable energy. This bill has not received a committee hearing but Environment Missouri is continuing the work on updating our Renewable Energy Standard. 

Protect Missouri’s State Parks and Wildlife-

Missouri is known for its beautiful state parks that bring outdoor recreation, tourism, and appreciation for Missouri’s natural beauty. Missourians can continue to appreciate the great outdoors while teaching younger generations about the beauty and importance of nature.

HB 1046 is an attack on our beautiful Eleven Point State Park. This park is one of our newest parks in Missouri purchased by former Governor Jay Nixon in 2016. While the park is still not open to the public due to budget constraints, it has gone through many years of attacks since purchase. This land acquisition occurred because lead mining has depleted our land in Missouri so funds from those companies have been allocated to conservation efforts including this park and the beloved Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. Currently, this bill has passed out of Committee and is waiting for a hearing on the House floor. At a time when people are seeking refuge to outdoor areas, and enjoyment from state parks in Missouri, we should not seek to sell this land back to the original owner. Environment Missouri opposes this bill and supports conservation in the Show Me State along with further funding to the Missouri Parks and Recreation department.

HB 369/SB 301 is referred to as the “Prescribed Burning Act.” Prescribed burns are a crucial ecosystem management tool. It reduces the chances of destructive wildfires in Missouri, while protecting biodiversity in our native landscapes and wildlife. This bill defines liability with regards to prescribed fires in order to protect prescribed burners who follow strict guidelines. Environment Missouri testified in support of these bills, the House version of the bill has passed and is sitting with the Senate, while the Senate version is waiting for a full hearing on the Senate floor. 

HB 54 establishes that nature or the ecosystem does not have standing to bring civil action. This bill is known as the “Protection of Missouri Farms and Private Property Act,” and is a way for major polluters of land, water, or air can not be held accountable for their actions. With the climate crisis looming, Missourians deserve to be protected from a polluted environment and those polluting entities to pay for their actions resulting in a present degraded environment. Currently, this bill has been filled but hasn’t received a committee assignment so will probably not receive a hearing this legislative session. Environment Missouri will continue to keep an eye on this bill and any version that could possibly be filed in the years ahead. 

Destination Zero Carbon-

Transportation is one of the leading contributors to our greenhouse gas emissions. Our car-dependent transportation system is dangerous, harms to our communities, and is the nation’s leading source of global warming pollution. And more than ever before, it is clear that Missouri needs to invest in giving people healthier, more sustainable transportation options. Environment Missouri supports policies to help maintain our existing roadways, increase electric vehicle ownership, and invest in alternatives to driving.

HB 1006 is a bill that will disincentivize electric vehicle purchases in the state of Missouri. It adds to the current alternative fuel decal that exists in the state to make revenue for road construction and maintenance. Making ownership of an electric vehicle in Missouri even less affordable. A majority of the road destruction in our state is due to our low gas tax, Missouri currently has the second lowest gas tax across the country, and large heavy duty vehicles. Missouri resides in the heart of America and has many cross country highways, so Missouri roads and highways are used for transportation of goods. This is where a majority of our road damage comes from and that financial responsibility should not be placed on the backs of electric vehicle owners. HB 1006 has not received a committee assignment so will not receive a hearing this legislative session but Environment Missouri will continue watching bills that disincentive ownership of electric vehicles in Missouri. 

SJR 21/HB 694 Missouri currently has the second lowest gas tax in the nation, these funds are used to maintain and construct roads and highways in the state. Missourians are all too familiar with potholes and how to steer around them, however, it doesn’t have to be that way. These bills will increase the current 17 cent per gallon gas tax incrementally to 27 cents per gallon by 2026. The current national average is around 37 cents per gallon. These bills will significantly increase but Missouri is falling behind on an opportunity to “fix it first” to maintain existing roadways and expand clean transportation alternatives. Neither one of these bills have received a hearing so Environment Missouri will continue to push forward this type of legislation. 

Get the Lead Out-

Our children need clean, safe drinking water— especially at school where they go to learn and play each day. Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at school, pre-schools, and child care facilities.. The problem stems from pipes, plumbing, faucets and fixtures that contain lead. To keep children safe and healthy, the state must ensure that we get the lead out of the drinking water at schools across Missouri.

Currently, Environment Missouri is working with the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center to get lead in drinking water legislation passed. We are currently working to access data from schools who have willingly chosen to test their drinking water. Environment Missouri knows that lead in drinking water is a ubiquitous problem across the nation and wants to continue working to protect the safety of our children’s drinking water.


Bridget Sanderson

Former State Director, Environment Missouri

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