Department of Natural Resources challenges Administrative Hearing Commission in court, says AHC overstepped its authority


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is challenging the authority of a state commission.

DNR last week filed suit against Commissioner Brett Berri and the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC), asking the courts to bar the commission from enforcing a stay order.

The issue at hand stems from two cases dealing with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the Valley Oaks Steak Company, LLC. The CAFO received a permit from DNR on June 15, 2018, allowing it to raise the number of cattle on site about the 999-unit maximum for an unpermitted facility, but within the amount specified by the permit.

A week later, Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Agriculture, LLC, filed a complaint with the AHC appealing that decision by DNR, moving for a stay. Two days later, Powell Gardens, Inc., Elizabeth Deich, and the Robert M. Chamness Trust filed a complaint as well.

After a hearing in the matter on July 9, 2018, Commissioner Berri issued an order granting a stay of the permit granting, ordering that Valley Oaks return its number of cattle, which was approximately 1,900, to the original number before the permit was granted.

DNR is appealing to the court, saying that the AHC has exceeded its statutory authority, saying that the legislature had “vested the AHC with jurisdiction to hear administrative appeals and issue recommended decisions to the Clean Water Commission pursuant to the Missouri Clean Water Law, § 621.250.1, RSMo” and that the AHC was never given the authority to enter final decisions in these cases. Instead, that authority remains with the Clean Water Commission.

The case has been assigned to Judge Jon Beetem. You can read the full filing below.