Thursday, December 10, 2015

I don’t consider myself to be overly environmentally-conscious. Sure, I throw my empty soda can in a recycle bin when available. I take old newspapers to the recycling dumpsters at my son’s school. But don’t ask me about the effects global warming or vehicle emissions or water purification. I think, like most people, I am aware of the dangers of those things, but they’re not things that affect my day-to-day living.

A few years back, we reported on the long-running litigation between Ideker Inc. and the Concerned Citizens for AIR Inc (CCAIR) regarding an asphalt plant near Missouri Highway 150 and Interstate 49. In the suit filed in 2013, CCAIR and Grandview sought to keep Ideker from obtaining a permit to run the plant in Kansas City, due to concerns about air pollution. They wanted a Jackson County court to decide whether the Missouri Department of Natural Resources had improperly approved an air-emissions permit for Ideker's facility.

The group expressed concerns about air quality in general while Grandview, more specifically, had issues about potential impact from chemical and dust emissions reaching nearby elementary schools in the area. The lawsuit showed promise when a Jackson County judge approved a temporary restraining order against a temporary permit to Ideker from the DNR, a decision that the Missouri Supreme Court later upheld.

But Ideker received a permanent permit early in 2014 and moved to get the lawsuit against it and the DNR dismissed so that it could continue operating. Ideker and the DNR argued that Grandview hadn't taken the necessary steps to block the permit through the DNR before heading off to court. While a Jackson County judge didn't find that argument persuasive, a panel of appellate judges did.
However, in July of this year, the case reached a conclusion with the court dismissing the case, granting Ideker the ability to keep its permit and stick to business as usual.

And business as usual is exactly how Ideker responded. The other morning, on my way into the office, I snapped a photo of the asphalt plant from my vantage point down 150 Highway. In the photo, with a crisp, clear blue sky, you can see a cloud of billowy, black smoke rising from the facility, headed straight into the wind toward Butcher-Greene Elementary School.

With it being a nice December day, I imagined the hundreds of children in the area that will head outside for recess. Though they may not be able to smell anything odd in the air (they may even be used to any odors by now), I couldn’t help but wonder about the long-term effects of breathing in the emissions from creating the asphalt.

If the wind shifts the other direction, those emissions head straight for Belvidere Elementary School andnd straight into the lungs of my ten-year-old son. When driving behind a vehicle that is expelling junk into the air, I have the option to roll up my windows, close my vents and speed around them. The kids playing outside at recess or enjoying their own backyards should be able to have some options, too, when it comes to the air they breathe.

I’m hopeful that this isn’t the end of the fight. I’m hopeful that CCAIR will continue to press on. I’m hopeful that MDNR will take our children into consideration. And, I’m hopeful that the safety and well-being of the community surrounding the development along the 150 corridor will outshine the dollar signs that seem to be glaring in the eyes of local political and developmental spearheads. 

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