JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House has slashed the state environmental agency's plans to develop state environmental-protection programs in response to federal environmental budget cuts.
As the first step in expanding state efforts, the Natural Resources Department included in its budget request what it termed a "comparative risks initiative" to identify areas for expanded state effort.
Gary Heimericks, Director of Administrative Support for DNR, said that the idea is to encourage community involvement in studying priorities for environmental policies.
"It's a new initiative to try to get citizens, the scientific community, and business community involved with evaluating what environmental programs the state of Missouri should be undertaking in the future," he said.
Because federal funding for environmental programs has been decreasing, Heimericks said, the state will have to undertake more of its own programs for environmental protection.
The department had requested funding to hire four or five employees to run the new program. The House cut that budget line to a single employee.
"We reduced it to one person because our hope is that the legislature will be involved as well as the executive branch," said House Budget Committee Chairman Shelia Lumpe, D-St. Louis County.
Lumpe said that she doesn't think that the cut would harm the initiative.
The DNR budget is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Heimericks said he fears that members of the Senate committee have some of the same concerns as the House.
The problem, he said, is that the cuts will cause delays in some environmental issues being addressed.
"There's not a lot we can do with the 1 FTE (full-time equivalent employee) left, it's going to slow down the process, " Heimericks said.
"It's a matter of how soon do we want to start addressing these environmental issues?"