The use of lead remediation funds to create a state park near the Arkansas border has raised eyebrows and House Republicans are standing up to the governor over the purchase.
House Bill 2187, which requires the Department of Natural Resources to sell certain lands acquired through environmental settlement funds, passed the House Feb. 18 by a margin of 117 to 33. The vote came down along party lines.
The bill will now go to the Senate.
Since 2009, there have been several settlements with lead mining companies for remediation of affected areas in southeast Missouri totaling nearly $50 million.
That money was earmarked for cleanup of areas ravaged by the strip mining over the last hundred years.
Although remediation is ongoing, $11 million was earmarked for the creation of a new 4,200-acre state park in Oregon County, which is 100 miles away from the area impacted by lead mining.
“Is nothing sacred?” State Rep. Justin Alferman (R-Washington) asked. “That money is for cleanup of the affected areas and not a slush fund for the governor to buy new state parks. This land isn’t anywhere near the remediation area. You can’t just move state funds from one account to the other.”
Alferman said the plan for the state park was done “under a veil of secrecy” and using the money for initial intent and it is a legal and moral issue.
“I want to be really clear on this,” Alferman said. “I love state parks and frequent many of them myself, but this is a blatant misuse of government funds. Once the land is sold, that money can be used for better things like transportation and education.”
Alferman’s colleague in the House, Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), agrees and also voted yes on the bill to force the DNR to sell the land.
“I do not support the state buying land with the remediation money,” Hinson said. “The money should be used in the area of contamination to improve those areas’ tourism and parks.”
Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Union), who also represents Franklin County, was absent from the vote and could not be reached for comment.