April 6, 2010
Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Chris Koster today applauded an appellate court decision that ends a lawsuit against a proposed CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) in Arrow Rock, Missouri. Koster has long argued that the buffer zones set by a trial court in this case were created inappropriately. In a ruling issued Tuesday morning, the Western District Court of Appeals agreed, vacating the decision of the Cole County trial court and assessing costs in the matter against the opposing party. The Court of Appeals stated that the trial court judge was without authority to issue the underlying ruling on the grounds that no controversy existed before the court.
The Attorney General stressed that his office's pursuit of the Arrow Rock case on appeal was not based on the appropriateness of the buffer zones, but rather on the question of whether the trial court had the legal authority to draw buffer zones different from those provided in statute.
"I have said repeatedly that I am in favor of more protective buffer zones around state parks, recreational waterways, historic sites and other sites of cultural significance," Koster said. "However, creation of such buffer zones is the province of the legislature and not the courts. Our agricultural system would grind to a halt if every judge were allowed to set their own personal boundary lines around every Missouri farm."
In its ruling, the Court of Appeals appeared to agree with the assertion that individual judges may not draw discreet buffer zones different than those provided in state statute or DNR regulation. The court stated in a unanimous decision, "DNR also argues that [the trial court's judgment] misapprehends the law with respect to DNR's purported duty to protect parks. We express very serious concern that the trial court has likely overreached with its determinations..."
"This office has great respect for the trial court that issued the ruling," Koster said. "However, the manner in which buffers are created is of critical importance to this state. Missouri's farming communities are desperate for the General Assembly to address the disputes underlying the Arrow Rock case. These issues will not go away until policymakers settle the rightful claims of farmers and environmentalists alike."