The Missouri Department of Natural Resources faces a potential funding shortfall for Missouri’s Hazardous Waste Program following the General Assembly’s March 4 disapproval of a stopgap funding measure. On that date, the Missouri House of Representatives adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 38 disapproving an increase in Hazardous Waste Program fees previously passed by the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Commission. The Missouri Senate had passed SCR 38 on February 24. Accordingly, the fee increases will not take effect.
MDNR states that loss of certain federal funding and funding losses from the department’s Red Tape Reduction Initiative mean that in Fiscal Year 2022 the Hazardous Waste Program will face a substantial funding shortfall that threatens many of the program’s functions and services. To plug this gap, last summer MDNR initiated a rulemaking process to increase fees supporting the program. Under the authorizing statute, such fees can be increased through a process of engaging stakeholders, proposing to adjust fees by notice and comment rulemaking, and obtaining final approval of a fee adjustment regulation from the Hazardous Waste Management Commission. The regulation is then subject to potential review by the General Assembly. If the General Assembly by joint resolution disapproves the regulation within a specified time during the next legislative session, the regulation does not take effect. This is what happened on March 4, 2020.
Initially, Missouri’s regulated industry stakeholders supported a version of MDNR’s funding proposal as an interim measure to support the program while a comprehensive long-term funding approach could be discussed and developed. In the intervening months, however, industry stakeholder support eroded. Some stakeholders complained that the Hazardous Waste Program has exceeded the bounds of its authority from the General Assembly, and others complained about other department practices.
In response to these concerns and others, the General Assembly began reviewing the stopgap funding regulation and has now disapproved it.
In the meantime, some industry stakeholders have been working with MDNR to identify potential cost savings to preserve the funding the Hazardous Waste Program already has. In particular, participants have identified transfers to other state agencies that may no longer be justified. Stakeholders who opposed the most recent fee increase have said they are willing to continue discussions with MDNR and others to address funding shortfalls, potential fee increases, and program operational questions. Other industry stakeholders expressed concern whether the projected funding shortfall would threaten the viability of the Hazardous Waste Program and lead to repercussions from the Environmental Protection Agency, which reviews and approves Missouri’s program.
Regardless how this funding situation has been addressed for the time being, it is clear that discussions over funding Missouri’s Hazardous Waste Program will continue, with implications for the regulated community and for the operation of the Hazardous Waste Program.