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MASTERSON ONLINE: Protecting the river

13 Apr 2019 10:24 AM | Anonymous member

MASTERSON ONLINE: Protecting the riverby Mike Masterson 

| Today at 1:52 a.m

Reader Nancy Baxter was among those expressing disdain for GOP state Sen. Gary Stubblefield's Senate Bill 550 that Gov. Asa Hutchinson rightly sidetracked late last month.

That's the Farm Bureau-embraced bill I'm sure many readers recall that would have transferred authority for issuing permits and oversight of hog factories from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) to the ill-equipped Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. It was such a terrible bill I affectionately named it the "Superfluous Stubblefield Stinker."

While I appreciate all readers who make the effort to express their views to our elected officials, I was especially interested in the revealing response Baxter received from members of the governor's "Constituent Staff."

Although stopping short of flat-out saying the senator's stinker was going nowhere, even after passing the Senate (those folks clearly enjoy pleasing the appreciative Farm Bureau), it nonetheless spelled out Hutchinson's feelings about the matter. Here's what it said:

"Thank you for reaching out to Governor Hutchinson's office on this critical issue. It is important that adequate protections remain in place so that we can continue our diligent work to protect the Buffalo National River. Historically, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has been the agency of record for this type of permitting, and they already have the necessary expertise in place to make a determination on a Regulation 5 application.

"Governor Hutchinson is confident in the current process at ADEQ, and will continue to have reservations with regard to SB550 and the transfer of Regulation 5 permitting authority from the ADEQ to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC). The Governor will continue to monitor this legislation closely."

That's encouraging, since I feel certain thousands of others across our state who care deeply for protecting the welfare of our country's first national river are closely monitoring right alongside the governor.

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