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The State of the State is ambiguous

February 06, 2001
By: Ben Paynter
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Although state legislators supported Gov. Bob Holden's commitment to the environment during his State of the State address Tuesday, environmental advocates say his statements should have delved into deeper issues.

Holden urged environmental action against pollution and improved treatment of drinking water and industrial and hazardous waste. But environmental lobbyists and the Sierra Club said this wasn't enough.

"There are some pretty onerous compliance regulations out there," said Kevin Perry, president of the Regulatory Environmental Group for Missouri.

Perry is concerned with the future of commerce on the Missouri River. In the past year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken steps to limit the river's flow protect endangered species. If the river has less water flow, many river industries would have to decrease their work.

"The management of the river could have significant effects for the future of corporations in Missouri," Perry said. "This affects how many days a year we are shipping in Missouri. For people who wish to grow and compete in the marketplace, this is a critical issue."

Ken Midkiff, director of the Sierra Club's Ozark chapter, said he had no comment on Holden's address.

"Generally, we look at what people do, not what people say," Midkiff said. But "so far Holden's done the right talking and the right walking. It is encouraging."

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said there will be no legislative action on the river issue this session. The issue will remain in the hands of the attorney general and be settled at the federal level, Graham said.

Graham said the environment, particularly in Boone County, is generally in good shape. He said there will be few environmental concerns before the House this year.

"We've done a solid job," he said. "The challenges in Boone County have more to do with growth and how to handle that."

Rep. Timothy Harlan, D-Columbia, said Holden probably overlooked some environmental issues because the current financial crisis deserved more attention.

"We have a $300 million shortfall in the budget this year," Harlan said. "The focus of Governor Holden's speech was appropriate because we have a larger problem that is going to affect all other issues."

Harlan said much of the tobacco settlement money still tied up in legislature is earmarked for life sciences. He said this would directly bolster environmental research in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia.

The Department of Natural Resources says it is not concerned about possible funding cuts or gubernatorial neglect this year.

"We know we have Holden's commitment toward the environment," DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson said.

"We'll do what we always do in this department, and that is continue to do our best to protect that resource," she said.