Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday announced the appointment of three new members to a state board that oversees water pollution, and all of them have ties to agriculture.
That gives farm-friendly members a majority on the Clean Water Commission, which is responsible for granting permits to large factory farms, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
The change is possible because the Republican-led Legislature in 2016 overrode a veto by the former Democratic governor to enact legislation that gave farming and mining companies the chance to have more seats on the board and a larger say in state water policies. Supporters of the change argued members of the public don't have the expert knowledge to make sound decisions on the issues.
Now, the commission doesn't need representation from any general public members.
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The newly appointed Clean Water Commission members are Mansfield farmer Stan Coday; John Kleiboeker, who owns Kleiboeker's Clover Creek Farms in Stotts City; and Pat Thomas, who is chief of staff for Republican Sen. Brian Munzlinger, membership change sponsor.
Thomas also is secretary of the Missouri Republican Party State Committee.
Current commission members include chairwoman Ashley McCarty, a cattle farmer from Kirksville, and attorney J. Benton Hurst, whose father is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau.
The appointments come as the commission is considering whether to grant permits for large-scale chicken and hog farms.
Attorney Stephen Jeffery represents people fighting companies trying to open large-scale feeding operations, including opponents of a proposal for a farm in McDonald County that would house more than 370,000 chickens. The case is pending before the Clean Water Commission.
"I think that anyone is interested in clean water issues, it's a concern," Jeffery said. He added that boards and commissions "should offer a balanced perspective."
There's still an open seat on the commission, meaning Greitens could later appoint another farm-friendly member.