JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri Department of Natural Resources already has started implementing legislation awaiting the governor's signature that would strengthen the procedures it must follow before enacting new environmental regulations.
State Rep. Peter Myers, R-Sikeston, failed to win passage of a stricter version of the bill last year. With overwhelming support, Myers' follow-up proposal cleared the General Assembly last month on the final day of the 2004 legislative session.
"I think this is a reasonable bill that puts some discipline in the rule-making process," Myers said.
DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson said the department had concerns will earlier proposals that would have barred it from adopting regulations that exceed general guidelines set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. However, she said the department supports the final bill.
"Our main concerns had been making sure citizens are safe and that regulatory control wasn't washed away," Patterson said.
Gov. Bob Holden won't act on the measure until it has undergone the customary review process by his staff. Patterson said many of the new procedures called for by the bill have recently been put in place.
The bill would establish a 13-step process for the department to follow when considering new regulations. Those steps include ensuring a proposed rule is based on sound science and that the environmental benefits outweigh the economic costs, consideration of less costly or restrictive alternatives and the inclusion of public participation in the process.
The department would also be required to cite the specific law upon which it bases any proposed regulation. Myers said the agency generally has done so in the past, but that DNR employees occasionally get overzealous and exceed their authority.
"Some people in the field get a little carried away sometimes and try to impose something without any legal basis," Myers said.
Patterson said DNR is striving for greater openness and is working to solicit greater input from those who would be affected by proposed regulations.
"Basically we're taking rule making out of the closet, putting it into the light and getting stakeholders more involved in the process," Patterson said. The bill is HB 980.