JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An environmental group wants lawmakers to address vacancies within a state panel in the upcoming session.
The Missouri Air Conservation Commission, which is charged with carrying out the Clean Air Act, has two unoccupied seats.
John Hickey with the Missouri Sierra Club contends those spots need to be filled with people from two areas which currently have no representation – Kansas City and St. Louis. “If you look at a map of the counties in Missouri that fail to meet the EPA air quality standards, they are all in St. Louis and Kansas City.” The counties that are in non-compliance for ozone and Sulphur Dioxide are Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis in metro St. Louis, along with Jackson in metro Kansas City.
The Air Conservation Commission oversees compliance with federal air quality requirements. It currently has five members representing labor, agriculture, industry and the general public. A closer look at membership may reveal some inconsistencies.
Gary Pendergrass, the commission chairman, is listed as representing the general public. He’s employed by GEO Engineers, where he works on capturing and storing carbon dioxide generated by coal-burning power plants.
Board member Jack Baker is listed as representing agriculture. He works for the Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives, a group representing utilities which operate at least two coal fire power plants. Emissions from coal fired plants are a major contributor of greenhouse gases which are complicating the St. Louis and Kansas City area counties from complying with the air quality standards.
Another commission member, vice chairman David Zimmermann, represents labor. The address of his employer, Sheet Metal Workers, is in St. Louis. However, he lives in Crystal City, which is 35 miles from the city center of St. Louis.
Hickey, with the Missouri Sierra Club, thinks the identification of representation of those serving on the Air Conservation Commission is misleading.
He says residents in two major metro areas which have no representation are suffering. “How is that fair that Missourians who pay their taxes, who have to breath the worst air in the state, don’t have any say-so in making sure that the clean air act is effectively enforced.”
The clean air standards are administered through the Clean Air Act, which was created by Congress in 1963.
Members of the Air Conservation Commission are appointed for four year terms by the governor, and are approved by the state Senate. It’s a state panel under the Department of Natural Resources.