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Dixon proposes DNR changes

If Missouri lawmakers agree with state Sen. Bob Dixon’s proposal, eight current boards and commissions would disappear and their authority would be transferred directly to the state Natural Resources department.

But several organizations told the Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee on Tuesday afternoon at least some of those advisory panels should be kept in state law.

Dixon, R-Springfield, told the committee his main proposal is “designed to provide more efficient, leaner operation within DNR, and to improve the environmental permitting process.”

Often, he explained, people tackling projects — especially construction projects or those involving special uses of open land — require multiple environmental permits.

“First of all, the proposal would streamline the permitting process for (those) applicants,” Dixon said. “It would build upon existing law, which allows applicants to request a unified permit schedule, whereby the department works with the applicant to prioritize permit processing.”

But, because the “unified permit schedule is rarely — if ever — used,” Dixon said, the proposed law takes several steps to make sure Natural Resources notifies applicants of the unified permit process, “requiring the director to develop a protocol for processing multiple applications for a single project (and) requiring the department to provide technical assistance on (those) projects.”

Only the department, which proposed the plan, supported all of it.

And the bill’s main opposition came from groups questioning its proposal to eliminate the Land Survey Commission, Unmarked Human Burials Consultation Committee, Dam and Reservoir Safety Council, Well Installation Board, Industrial Minerals Advisory Council, State Interagency Council for Outdoor Recreation, State Oil and Gas Council and the Solid Waste Advisory Board.

“The thought process there was they may or may not be necessary,” Dixon explained, “and by eliminating those boards and commissions we could speed that (permit process) up for the applicants.”

Steve Rudloff of the Missouri Limestone Producers Association told the committee that his group supports “the overall goal of the legislation,” but that “getting rid of the Industrial Minerals Advisory Council, I don’t think, will help the overall purpose of the bill, at all. We’d like to see that preserved.”

Jessica Hodge of the Missouri Recycling Association defended the Solid Waste Advisory Board’s work.

And Jim Ferrell, lobbying for the St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District, said the board “is something that we see as very beneficial to working out recycling issues with the industries and with the recycling districts.”

Former state Rep. Don Steen, lobbying for the Missouri Farm Bureau, said dropping the Outdoor Recreation Council “eliminates an inter-agency task force that’s been very useful among the University of Missouri, Agriculture and Conservation, to advise on some of the issues.”

And, although they couldn’t testify at the hearing, Dixon said he already had been asked to save the Oil and Gas Council.

Committee Chairman Brad Lager, R-Savannah, told Dixon his bill needs some extra work before it has any chance of getting recommended for floor debate.

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