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Supreme Court ends challenge to revised Clean Water Commission law

Supreme Court ends challenge to revised Clean Water Commission law

July 17th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Local News

The Missouri Supreme Court at 207 W. High St. in Jefferson City.

Missouri's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and member Carolyn Johnson do not have the legal "standing" to sue over changes to the law defining the make up of the Clean Water Commission.

The commission is composed of seven members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, all who are required to be representative of the general interest of the public."

But in 2016, the General Assembly changed the law about those appointments, requiring "at least two members shall be knowledgeable concerning the needs of agriculture, industry or mining, and interested in protecting these needs " and "no more than four members shall represent the public."

When the coalition sued in February 2017, it challenged the validity of the new version of the law.

The coalition also said the law had been passed in violation of two constitutional provisions — limiting a bill to one subject and limiting a bill to its original purpose.

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The state asked Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the coalition didn't have any standing as "taxpayers" to file the lawsuit. Green agreed.

He dismissed the lawsuit Nov. 1, 2018, in a 16-page ruling that said "the Court dismisses the Petition with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."

Among other things, Green found, the coalition's original lawsuit "alleges no actual or threatened injury or damages" — a usual requirement to show someone has a legal interest in filing a lawsuit.

As Judge W. Brent Powell wrote for a unanimous Supreme Court, quoting a 1987 case: "For a party to have standing to challenge the constitutionality of a statute, he must demonstrate that he is adversely affected by the statute in question" to ensure "there is a sufficient controversy between the parties (so) that the case will be adequately presented to the court."

Green's circuit court ruling also said the new version of the law "provides more flexibility for appointments."

Powell wrote for the Supreme Court: "The Coalition does not allege, nor can it show, that the speculative potential changes to the (Clean Water) Commission membership threatened or actually injured it, as there is no way to foresee if the new membership will be less favorable to their cause or interest in clean water."