Large-scale Transmission Projects Face Uncertain Future in Missouri


Image courtesy of The Kansas City Star

Case updates

Last year I highlighted some of the key differences between the Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision to approve Ameren’s proposed Mark Twain Project (MTP) transmission line, while denying Clean Line’s proposed Grain Belt Express (GBE) transmission project.  Following the 2016 approval of the MTP, Neighbors United Against the Mark Twain Transmission Line, a group of landowners and community members opposing construction of the project, filed suit against Ameren and the PSC.  The Missouri Court of Appeals of the Western District ultimately ruled in favor of Neighbors United, voiding the project’s state regulatory approval.  Ameren filed an appeal and the decision rested on whether the Supreme Court of Missouri would hear the case or not.  Fast forward to March of 2017 and Clean Line was back before the PSC, seeking approval of the Grain Belt Express transmission project that was denied a CCN in 2015.

This time around Clean Line garnered the support of then-governor Jay Nixon, several municipalities and corporations, Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers, and others.  Clean Line also obtained purchase agreements from the Missouri Public Energy Pool 1, Kirkwood, MO, and Hannibal, MO.  Despite the cultivated customers, op-eds 2 3, and the show of support from several high-profile corporations, PSC staff found that Clean Line had once again failed to show evidence that the project met the criteria of Economic Feasibility, Public Interest, or Need.  While the staff brief pointed to another denial of  the project, turnover in PSC commissioners 4, public and political support for the project, and purchase agreements potentially changed the decision landscape.

The commissioners punted on a decision until the Missouri Supreme Court made a ruling on Ameren’s appeal of the Neighbors United case, which found that the PSC could not approve a project until the company had obtained approval from each county in the path of the project.  In the case of the MTP, county commissioners in the proposed path of the project had denied land use approval for the transmission line.  The proposed route for Clean Line’s GBE traverses through eight counties, all of which have denied approval after initially approving the project several years earlier.  The Missouri Supreme Court recently decided not to hear the Neighbors United Vs. Ameren/PSC appeal, placing the decision on GBE squarely in the lap of the PSC.

While the commissioners have yet to make a final decision, they have scheduled a hearing for August 3rd to allow Clean line and its supporters, as well as the landowners and other opponents of the project to have a final say before a decision is made.  PSC staff didn’t wait to make their opinion known, filing a supplemental brief on July 6th.  The brief outlines staff opinion that a CCN should not be approved for the project on the grounds that the MTP court case requires transmission projects to gain county approval before PSC can authorize state approval.

Image courtesy of St. Louis Public Radio

Where we go from here

While a final decision hasn’t been made, it’s difficult to see how the GBE project gains approval from the PSC.  The Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear the appeal effectively hands over regulatory authority from the PSC to county commissioners for large-scale transmission projects.  Even before the court case, the staff opinion, which carries a great deal of weight, remained tilted against approval.  As outlined in the previous post, the current state regulatory structure relies heavily on the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) regional planning authority, and projects like the Grain Belt Express that operate outside of that process, have a greater burden of proof in terms of establishing Economic Feasibility, Public Interest, and Need.

Should Clean Line be denied a CCN again, it’s unclear how the company will move forward with the GBE project.  Approval has been obtained from the other states 5 in the path of the proposed transmission line and Clean Line could attempt to bypass state authority as they did in Arkansas with the Plains & Eastern line, where that state’s PSC voted to deny approval of the project.  In the case of the Plains & Eastern Line, Clean Line obtained federal approval from the Department of Energy (DOE) for the line passing through Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.  Yet, the current DOE administration under Energy Secretary Rick Perry could pull the plug 6, sending the project back to square one.  Regarding Ameren’s MTP, the company is currently proposing a new route that will take advantage of existing right of way, with the aim of avoiding landowner opposition to the transmission line and gaining the required county commissioner approvals.

With MTP currently shelved until a new route can be presented to county commissioners and GBE potentially facing a second denial before the PSC, the state of Missouri presents a significant regulatory hurdle to multi-state transmission projects.  That said, court decisions and regulatory processes out of Missouri are not the only obstacles in the way of interstate renewable energy projects.  Other states, such as Arkansas and Iowa have halted Clean Line’s plans, and the battle between local control and state and federal authority over transmission projects is still playing out.  Rick Perry’s DOE is also nearing the release of a study focused on the impacts of renewable energy sources on the reliability of the electric grid.  Should that study frame renewable energy sources as a threat to the grid 7, it may make obtaining approval for large-scale transmission projects all the more difficult 8.

Without large-scale transmission projects providing a means of getting wind energy from the point of generation to consumers across the country, growth in this sector will be limited.  While the current federal administration may not prioritize renewable energy investments, states like Missouri, which rely heavily on coal for electricity generation, should focus on long-term planning to make informed energy policy decisions.  With the continued penetration of cheap natural gas and renewable energy sources in the energy market, coal has a dwindling shelf life and states will need to diversify energy sources to maintain reliability and prepare for potential future state and federal emissions regulations.  With the creation of Missouri’s Comprehensive State Energy Plan, that process has already begun, but it will take the convergence of public support, political will, and feasible policies to allow the state of Missouri to take advantage of the energy transition now underway 9.

  1. The Missouri Public Energy Pool supplies electricity to 35 municipalities in Missouri. 
  2. “Missouri should approve Grain Belt Express project to lower energy rates” 
  3. “Missouri, my friend, is blowing against the wind” 
  4. GBE was denied approval in 2015 by a vote of 3-2.  The previous chairman, Robert Kenney, who supported approval of GBE is no longer on the commission, with the opening filled by Maida Coleman.  Even if Coleman votes to support GBE approval, one of the commissioners who previously voted to deny GBE a CCN would have to flip their vote for the project to gain approval. 
  5. The proposed route for the Grain Belt Express runs from wind farms in Kansas, through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. 
  6. A delegation of Arkansas lawmakers recently appealed to the Energy Secretary to reverse the administration’s previous decision regarding the transmission line
  7. A draft of the DOE Grid Reliability Study was recently obtained by Bloomberg News and finds that renewable energy sources do not pose a threat to reliability.  While the draft version may relieve the anxiety of renewable energy proponents, the published version of the study could look much different than the leaked draft. 
  8. Multi-state transmission projects already face an uphill climb compared to their natural gas pipeline counterparts, which undergo federal approval and are rarely denied
  9. See John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Model (also referred to as the “Garbage Can” Model) of policy formation as a blueprint for future climate policy solutions. 

Missouri Public Service Commission Cases: Grain Belt Express-Denied, Mark Twain Project-Approved


Image courtesy of UCSU

Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (Ameren) plans to have its Mark Twain Transmission Project (MTP) carrying wind-generated electricity through Northeastern Missouri by 20181.  Meanwhile, Clean Line Energy Partners’ (Clean Line) Grain Belt Express (GBE) transmission line is set to undergo a second round of scrutiny before Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to determine if its transmission lines will carry electricity from wind farms in Kansas through the heart of Missouri2.  Unlike Ameren’s multi-state transmission project, Clean Line’s project was denied approval3 for a certificate of convenience & necessity (CCN), required for public utilities to utilize eminent domain for the construction of transmission lines and substations.

Several pieces have been written focused on the basic differences between the companies and the possible implications of the PSC’s rejection of GBE4.  As Clean Line prepares to once again seek approval for the GBE5, it’s a good time to take a moment to compare and contrast Missouri PSC commissioners’ and support staff’s use and application of specific criteria to make final determinations in each case.

The Missouri PSC currently examines CCN applications through the lens of five categories of criteria distilled from past cases, which were first applied in the 1994 case of Tartan Energy. These criteria include:
● Whether there is a need for the facilities and service
● Whether the applicant is qualified to own, operate, control, and manage the facilities and provide the service
● Whether the applicant has the financial ability for the undertaking
● Whether the proposal is economically feasible
● Whether the facilities and service promote the public interest

According to the PSC staff’s official opinion in the case6, Clean Line’s GBE application fell short of adequately showing need, economic feasibility, and promotion of the public interest, while Ameren’s MTP adequately met each of the five “Tartan criteria”.  Without straying too far into the weeds, the following is a summary of the arguments made by PSC staff against approval of the GBE based on Need, Economic Feasibility, and Public Interest, contrasted with arguments for approval of the MTP.



Image courtesy of Clean Line Energy Partners


PSC staff focused on the inadequacy of Clean Line’s reliance on the Missouri Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to establish need, providing utilities in Missouri with an option to meet the requirements. The staff found that “that reliance is questionable”, since it was unknown whether electricity generated from this project would be utilized by Ameren (the only utility at the time without a plan to reach 15% renewables by 2021) to meet the requirements of RES.  Staff also mentioned that Missouri customer demand for wind energy may be low and since the project did not originate from a regional planning authority, need was questionable.

Economic Feasibility:

While the PSC staff report mentioned that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-approved process by which GBE would solicit customers for the project could provide evidence of economic feasibility, it was not recommended that the commission rely on that process.  The staff expressed concern that the project had not yet undergone scrutiny under all of the regional planning authorities, especially the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)7, which would allow for a full accounting of project expenditures.  The report found that the economic feasibility was unknown since a regional planning authority had not determined what, if any upgrades would be required to current transmission infrastructure, which could result in additional costs to ratepayers in the future.  The report also questioned Clean Line’s analysis of regional energy markets, stating, “the generic, off-the-shelf data package that GBE relied on to perform its modeling is inadequate”.

Public Interest:

In staff’s final rebuttal of Clean Line’s arguments for approval, the MISO planning process was once again mentioned.  While Clean Line argued that the project would provide low-cost wind energy to customers with limited access to wind-generated power, PSC staff pointed to MISO’s regional project approval process to ensure that projects do not have “adverse economic effects on MISO member’s rate payers”.  During discussion of the public interest, staff again made the case that Clean Line had not adequately modeled regional energy markets to establish cost savings, nor shown that energy from the project would be used by utilities to meet the requirements of RES.  The case was also made once again that the costs of the project may be higher due to possible infrastructure improvements needed to account for the increased load.  Finally, Clean Line’s argument that electricity generated from GBE would provide a replacement for power generated from coal-fired plants in the face of increasing environmental regulations was disregarded.  As stated by staff, “How future environmental regulation […] will impact the need for for wind energy in Missouri is too speculative at this time to rely on as a basis for granting Grain Belt Express a certificate of convenience and necessity”.



Images courtesy of Ameren Corporation


The Missouri PSC staff’s opinion8 found that the project application showed need, due to the origination of the project from MISO’s transmission expansion planning.  This plan and associated studies provide evidence of grid reliability expectations and impact on regional energy markets.  Staff’s opinion of the MTP differed from GBE in terms of the potential impact on both RES requirements and future environmental regulations, as staff called attention to the wind-generated electricity that would be made available to Ameren in order to meet the RES requirements, as well as providing a source of renewable energy to meet the requirements associated with future environmental regulations, such as EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)9.

Economic Feasibility:

PSC staff relied on MISO’s planning studies as evidence of feasibility, stating “the Mark Twain Project is economically feasible because the project was developed through MISO’s MVP study process”.

Public Interest:

As staff mentioned in their report, if the four other criteria are found to be adequate (Need, Qualified, Financial Ability, Economic Feasibility), the application will typically be approved.  In addition to this line of reasoning, PSC staff relied on the balanced cost-benefit ratio for the project as determined by the MISO studies.  The public interest criteria was approved despite Ameren’s previous attempt to bypass the Missouri PSC’s application process by arguing that the project was originating from an Illinois corporation and wouldn’t be directly selling any of the electricity to Missouri customers.

Stepping aside from the details of the case, the primary contrast between the two cases relates to the different business models employed by the two companies.  As an investor-owned public utility, Ameren raises funds for infrastructure projects through rate increases, which must be approved by the PSC.  Clean Line’s GBE was the first company to come before Missouri’s PSC seeking approval for a CCN with authority from FERC to solicit customers and negotiate transmission rates.  Funding for the project would rely entirely on Clean Line’s ability to obtain the necessary customers and set the appropriate rate to make a profit.

Clean Line’s business model eliminates the financial risk to consumers that exists when a typical investor-owned public utility invests in infrastructure improvements or energy generation facilities using a consumer rate increase.  If the GBE project were to fail, ratepayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the costs.  On the other hand, this alternative business model is completely new to Missouri’s PSC and public utility commissions around the country are grappling with new energy developments outside of the traditional utility infrastructure model based on building out infrastructure through corresponding rate increases.  While Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas approved the project, Missouri’s PSC denied the application due in large part to the uncertainties associated with this alternative business model and the negative impacts that would be borne by some Missouri landowners.

Both projects would bring a low-cost source of renewable energy into sections of Missouri’s electric grid, providing a potential option for utilities to meet the requirements of the RES.  Both projects would align Missouri’s electric grid development with the national trend of energy source diversification and increasing demand for renewable energy sources, both based on changing consumer norms and a regulatory environment increasingly imposing restrictions on emissions.  Yet, only one project is associated with a third-party regional planning authority (MISO), which takes a big picture approach to transmission development.

Missouri PSC commissioners and staff rely a great deal on the studies and determinations of regional planning authorities, including MISO, to prove need.  While Clean Line may still gain approval following new evidence of economic feasibility, economic benefits specific to Missourians, and protections for landowners, the “need” piece of the puzzle may be the deciding factor.  It remains to be seen if the Missouri PSC will approve a transmission project generated outside of the “best practice” associated with MISO’s reliability and competitive market regional planning process.  As studies have shown, utility regulators (including commissioners and their expert staff) as a group, share information by developing and following “best practices”, which may work to portray professionalism and limit criticism of commission decisions.  Best practices are born from policy experimentation, but the adoption of these practices can result in stagnation and a lack of policy innovation10.

In addition to the possible need to reevaluate regulatory norms in the face of energy source diversification, the results of each of these cases points to the importance of public input.  As mentioned in the final report and order issued by the commission majority in their denial of the CCN11, the GBE case generated the greatest number of public comments ever received by the PSC, with the majority of them opposing the project.  The GBE case also attracted more intervening parties to the case (19) than did the MTP case (4).  While most of the commission’s arguments for denying the GBE application were in lockstep with the staff’s initial brief, the commission appeared to place more weight on the opposition posed by the landowners who feared the project’s impact on home values, cropland, and quality of life.  Ultimately, the commission found the benefits to Missourians were either too few or too uncertain to outweigh the potential costs to landowners.

While both projects would require the use of eminent domain to construct transmission lines, the GBE project generated more vocal opposition and lacked the approval of a regional planning authority to share the burden of any potential criticism surrounding the decision.  There is a discussion to be had concerning how the PSC currently solicits public comments and how outreach could be improved to better represent the general population. The impact of public opposition appeared to carry greater weight in the GBE case than it did in the MTP case, according to the final commission report and orders.  Ultimately, Missouri’s PSC and their staff, which provide advice and advocate for approval or denial, must determine through which lens it will view future renewable energy projects.  Through a narrow lens, focused on best practices associated with traditional energy development projects and the opinions of a vocal segment of the population or through a wider lens, accounting for the increased demand for alternative energy sources and determining Missouri’s ability to compete in an evolving energy landscape born of a changing consumer culture and new regulatory pressures.

  1.  Maps detailing the project’s final route can be found here.  The transmission line will run from Palmyra, Mo to Kirksville, MO and then north into Iowa. 
  2.  Maps detailing the Missouri portion of the project’s proposed route, which includes, Kansas, Illinois, and Indiana can be found here
  3.  The CCN application was denied by a vote of 3-2 against the project.  The final commission report can be viewed here.  The dissenting opinion of Chairman (who has since stepped down from the commission) Robert S. Kenney can be viewed here and the dissenting opinion of Commissioner Daniel Y. Hall (now Chairman) can be viewed here
  4.  Jacob Barker of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported extensively on these cases, including a primer on some of the general differences between the cases, and an examination of some of the implications on the state of renewables in Missouri going forward. 
  5.  The new application for the GBE can be accessed here.  Clean Line ran into a new hurdle in the regulatory process by failing to file the required 60-day notice prior to official filing of the application.  With a backdated (6/30) 60 day filing requirement, the new application can’t be filed until 8/29/16. 
  6.  In addition to the above link to the PSC staff’s initial brief of the case, all other documents can be access on the general page for the GBE case here
  7.  MISO is an independent, non-profit regional transmission planning authority, which plans projects across 15 states, from the border of Indiana and Ohio, into eastern Montana, and south into New Orleans. 
  8.  In addition to the above link to staff’s case brief, all other documents associated with the MTP case can be accessed here.  The Missouri PSC voted unanimously to approve Ameren’s MTP application for a certificate of convenience and necessity. 
  9.  While the staff opinion in the GBE case referenced speculative nature of future environmental regulations, including the CPP which is currently locked in court proceedings, no such qualifier was discussed in the MTP case. 
  10.  Dr. Janice Beecher of Michigan State’s Institute of Public Utilities, examined the policy network among utility regulators in her paper titled “NARUC as network: a perspective on the U.S. regulatory policy community”
  11.  The commission’s majority opinion (report and order) can be accessed here

Policy Window Open for Alternative Ratemaking in Missouri

transmission elp 1

Image courtesy of Electric Light & Power

In order to ensure that Missourians receive safe and reliable electricity in the coming decades it will be necessary to develop a mechanism that will promote significant capital investments into grid modernization and infrastructure improvements, without imposing significant financial risk on utility companies and their consumers.  Missouri’s electric grid will require significant upgrades due to aging infrastructure, increasing energy demands, and more stringent environmental regulations1.  Utility companies in Missouri pay for investments in infrastructure improvements and technology modernization through rate increases.  Regulated utility companies must apply to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for rate increases, resulting in a hearing – a process which can last up to 11 months.  The PSC determines the amount of the rate increase, should it be approved, as well as the allowed return on equity (ROE), and the rate structure2.  The time between the application for the rate increase and the realization of the increased revenue is known as the ‘regulatory lag’, which can make it difficult for utilities to consistently recoups expenses in a timely manner.

Ameren Corporation, the parent company of Missouri’s largest electric provider (Ameren Missouri) has argued that lag time reduces the incentives for significant investment in infrastructure and grid modernization in Missouri, since investment in the state of Illinois and in federal transmission projects, offer more attractive investment climates through faster reimbursement of expenses and, in the case of federal projects, a higher potential ROE3.  Ratemaking under both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates interstate transmission lines, and the Illinois Commerce Commission, adjust rates annually based on expected expenditures for the coming year, with a rate correction at the end of the year based on actual expenditures (this process is known as formula ratemaking or performance-based ratemaking, due to other company performance metrics used to determine the rate/ROE).  This process allows for costs to be recouped as they are incurred, rather than years after the initial investment, as occurs under the cost of service ratemaking model used by Missouri’s PSC.  Under the current regulatory framework in Missouri, utilities apply for a rate increase with the understanding that they will typically receive a fraction of the requested amount.  Due to the unpredictability of the rate-setting process in Missouri, utilities may be reluctant to invest in innovative technologies, or large infrastructure projects, that may be viewed as risky or imprudent by the PSC.

Through lobbying efforts in recent years, Ameren (among other public utilities) has pushed for formula ratemaking legislation in Missouri that would allow for a faster and more predictable ROE, such as occurs in Illinois following the passage of similar legislation in 20114.  During the 2015 legislative session, Missouri Senate Bill 1028 and House Bill 2816 (the 21st Century Grid Modernization and Security Act) were strongly supported by Ameren.  These laws would have shifted from cost of service ratemaking, which requires utilities to apply for rate increases as needed, to formula/performance-based ratemaking, which provides a mechanism for annual rate increases and rate reviews with predetermined caps on rates and ROE.  Ameren has argued that Illinois’ passage of similar legislation has allowed for increased infrastructure improvement spending in Illinois as compared to Missouri5.  While the passage of a formula/performance-based rate system would allow for more predictable rate increases for both the utility companies and customers6, the involvement of the PSC in setting rates and ROE would be diminished.  Consumer advocates have raised concerns that formula ratemaking would result in guaranteed rate increases with less government oversight7.  While the formula/performance-based ratemaking legislation ultimately failed to pass in Missouri8, the need for large-scale infrastructure improvements remains.  As coal-fired power plants are phased out due to environmental regulations, the population continues to expand geographically through suburbanization, the economy increasingly relies on advanced technology, aging infrastructure becomes less reliable, energy sources diversify, and demand for infrastructure resiliency continues to increase – grid modernization will become increasingly necessary.

Both the Missouri Senate, by the creation of an Interim Committee on Utility Regulation and Infrastructure Investment9, and the PSC, by the opening of a case to examine how best to incentivize capital investments associated with infrastructure improvements, are focused on generating solutions to the infrastructure investment issue10.  With the incentivization of infrastructure improvements and grid modernization issues on the state government’s agenda, it is vital that all stakeholders take part in the discussion surrounding alternative rate-setting frameworks and that all rate-setting alternatives and possible repercussions are thoroughly examined through a robust study of ratemaking alternatives11.  Possible alternatives to the current system include the use of performance-based rates, time-differentiated rates, decoupling utility fixed cost recovery from the amount of electricity sold, and the use of forward test years to set rates based on the expected revenues and expenses for the period of time in which the rates will be in effect12.  As is the case in the United Kingdom13, it will most likely take a mix of different regulatory strategies to achieve the sweet spot of adequate incentives for utilities to innovate and invest in modernization of the electric grid, and ensuring all consumer classes receive sufficient value for their financial input – including reliable service, fair and just rates, opportunities for increased energy efficiency, and access to renewable forms of energy.  Now is the time for the members of the Missouri legislature, various players in the regulatory process, and consumers of all rate classes, to determine if a one hundred year old regulatory framework is the best way to ensure safe, reliable, and sustainable power generation for years to come.

  1. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2013 Report Card on Missouri’s infrastructure details the state of Missouri’s current infrastructure and the need for investment in the electric grid to ensure the state keeps pace with future demands. The ASCE gave the state a D+ rating for energy infrastructure in general. 
  2. The Missouri Public Service Commission Information Guide details the responsibilities of the commission as well as the process of ratemaking for investor-owned utilities in the state. In terms of Ameren Missouri, the PSC currently allows the utility a ROE of 9.53. The rate structure corresponds to the different electric rates approved for each customer class – including commercial, industrial, and residential. 
  3. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, “Ameren says Illinois, transmission better place to invest than Missouri” (9/8/15), outlines the greater certainly utilities experience during rate reviews in Illinois as compared to Missouri and the higher possible ROE available through federal transmission projects. 
  4. Under Illinois Public Act 097-0616, formula/performance-based ratemaking sets rates based not just on costs, but also based on performance metrics such as customer service and reliability. The ROE is set by a formula based on predicted costs and allows for deviation of 0.5%, otherwise the utility must either credit consumers or add consumer charges to correct the amount. The Connecticut General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research produced a thorough summary report on the Illinois legislation
  5. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article “Ameren says Illinois, transmission better places to invest than Missouri” (9/8/15) also details how Ameren’s predicted infrastructure investments will include Illinois electric and federal transmission, with no additional investment allocated for the state of Missouri. 
  6. Predictable rate increases may provide a benefit to the low-income population, whose utility bills consume a larger percentage of their income than those individuals with greater resources. Kansas City nonprofit Bridging the Gap supported the Missouri legislation due to the desire to avoid large unpredictable rate hikes. 
  7. These concerns were rebutted by supporters of the bill who outlined the benefits the state of Illinois has enjoyed, including increased infrastructure development, reliability, and stable electric rates. 
  8. Despite support in the legislature, the bill ran into a roadblock in the senate due to a republican-led filibuster. Some senators were concerned about higher consumer rates and a lack of utility oversight. 
  9. Both the Missouri Times and Missourinet published articles outlining the goals of the interim committee members, which will report out their findings by the end of the year. 
  10. In response to the proposed legislation, the commission voted to open a case to examine possible changes to utility regulation in order to spur investment into infrastructure and modernization (public comments can be found here). The chairman of the PSC also filed his own proposal for making regulatory changes. 
  11. With the Missouri legislature and the public service commission studying ratemaking alternatives separately, there is a risk of a lack of coordination leading to inconsistent recommendations. The commissioning of robust third-party studies regarding rate setting could aid in determining whether a change should be made and what alternative would be the best fit for the state of Missouri. Some state legislatures have enacted legislation requiring public utility commissions to study alternative ratemaking methods (Minnesota and Texas). 
  12. These ratemaking alternatives and others are examined in the Missouri Comprehensive State Energy Plan, published October 2015
  13. The United Kingdom utilizes the RIIO regulatory model, which combines decoupling and performance-based ratemaking. This regulatory framework has allowed for utility investment in innovative technologies. 

Missouri Legislative Update – House Edition (Spencer & Brown Take On The MDC)

MO State Capitol
Image courtesy of


The House Takes Aim at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Pocketbook

With Senate Bills 56, 178, 337, Joint Resolution 1, and Concurrent Resolution 25; Senator Munzlinger (R) of the 18th district is leading the charge in the Senate to establish some form of legislative control over the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  Now that you’re up to speed on the Senate side of things, it’s time to examine the legislation coming out of the House to kick off Missouri’s 2015 legislative session.  Representatives Bryan Spencer (R) of the 63rd district and Wanda Brown1 (R) of the 116th district have introduced 6 bills between them, targeting the Department of Conservation’s funding, enforcement requirements, and leadership activities.  Despite Rep. Spencer and Brown’s onslaught of bills, it’s the bill introduced by Rep. Craig Redmon (R) of the 1st district that has proven the most controversial.

Here’s a summary of the proposed legislation coming out of the House, including Rep. Redmon’s challenge to the MDC’s primary source of funding – the Conservation Sales Tax:

House Joint Resolution 8: Proposed by Representative Craig Redmon (R), 1st District – First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Withdrawn (1/28/15)

Summary: Proposes a constitutional provision repealing the Conservation sales and use tax.

Despite being on the books for less than a month, proposed constitutional amendment HJR8 created a political firestorm by threatening to repeal 60%2 of the MDC’s funding if approved by voters.  After the legislation was introduced, the MDC argued the loss of its primary funding source would put many of Missouri’s popular conservation programs in jeopardy.  In response to HJR8 and Sen. Munzlinger’s SR56, the Conservation Department’s Deputy Director, Tim Ripperger stated:

 “It would impact more than just sportsmen in the state, it would be a huge loss and impact on the entire conservation program,”

Assistant director of the department, Aaron Jeffries, expanded on the scope of the impact the loss of funding would have on the department’s programs when he noted:

“There wouldn’t be a program that wouldn’t be affected.  There would be an impact on everything from our management programs to our shooting ranges to hatcheries.”

Rep. Redmon has argued that he had no intention of having the resolution pass and reach voters, saying:

“To just put this thing flat out there — ‘Do you want it? Or don’t you?’ — would be a dangerous, dangerous thing.  In this climate, I’d say it would fail. And I’d say that would be devastating.”

Since withdrawing HJR8, Rep. Redmon seems to have distanced himself from Sen. Munzlinger and other lawmakers3, who are trying to wrest control of the Conservation Department’s funding sources, by classifying his proposed legislation as a “shot across the bow”, “to get conservation’s attention”.  Whether Rep. Redmon was merely reacting to the backlash4 over his proposal, or his original intention  was indeed to start a discussion over the sales tax, HJR8 was a short-lived wake-up call to the MDC and its many supporters, that certain GOP lawmakers may pose a true existential threat to the department as it is currently structured.

House Joint Resolution 27: Proposed by Representative Bryan Spencer (R), 63rd District – First read – 1/13/15

Current Status: Second Read – 1/14/15

Summary: Proposes a constitutional provision reducing the Conservation sales tax from 1/8 to 1/16 of a cent.

If approved by voters, Rep. Spencer’s proposed provision to Missouri’s constitution would halve the Conservation sales tax from 0.125% to 0.0625%.  If reduced to 1/16 of a cent, the conservation sales tax would generate approximately $50 million, as opposed to the approximately $100 million average annual input it currently provides the MDC.  While not as severe as Rep. Redmon’s proposal to do away with the sales tax altogether, Rep. Spencer has not portrayed his legislation as a discussion-starter, but rather a true desire to reduce departmental funding in an attempt to increase accountability of the MDC to taxpayers and to provide checks and balances to the MDC’s management of its financial resources.  In Rep. Spencer’s recent Capital Report, he outlines his view that MDC exists on an island:

“the Department has been described as an independent, autonomous, self-regulated department that is not accountable to the taxpayers and has no checks and balances”

and he makes clear that he sides with the captive deer industry and the American Cervid Alliance (who linked to this Capital Report) in his belief that the MDC and other state agencies have unfairly blamed the captive deer industry for the introduction and spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) through the transport of captive cervids:

“Is MDC bringing in diseases by elk introduction that may hurt the deer population in Missouri? Are the MDC blaming the cervid farmers for the MDC actions or what can accrue naturally? So far, the answer appears to be unknown.”

Rep. Spencer was a proponent of last year’s failed attempt to reclassify livestock to include captive cervids, which would have allowed for the transfer of regulatory authority from the MDC to the Department of Agriculture5.  As discussed previously, Sen. Munzlinger reopened the issue with SB178, but faces an uphill climb if the bill is not included in a package that would force Governor Nixon to reconsider using his veto pen again.  The American Cervid Alliance (ACA), which represents 39 elk, deer, and exotic associations, has used its PR firm to place op-eds in papers throughout the state under the names of its allies – including certain GOP lawmakers.  Recently, Rep. Spencer accused the ACA of submitting an op-ed to several different news sources under his name, which included content that was not authorized by him6.  This admission took place 3 days after Rep. Spencer and Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R) -160th District, received an email from me questioning identical passages that appeared in documents they had authored independently of one another7.  It is impossible to understand the legislative attack against the MDC without also understanding the desire of the captive deer industry to have its allies in the Missouri legislature gain control over some of the MDC’s decision making.

House Joint Resolution 28: Proposed by Representative Bryan Spencer (R), 63rd District – First read – 1/13/15

Current Status: Second Read – 1/14/15

Summary: Proposes a constitutional amendment requiring the conservation sales tax to be approved by voters every 10 years.

HJR28 is Rep. Spencer’s proposal to sunset the Conservation Sales tax, in order to increase accountability of the MDC to the tax payers that help fund the department through the tax.  If approved by voters, this amendment would place the tax before the voters and would either be approved or eliminated in 2016, 2018, and every 10 years thereafter.  Missouri’s Soil and Park Tax (1/10th of 1 cent), passed in 1984, undergoes periodic “reassessment”, and appearing on the ballot every 10 years.  Rep. Spencer has argued that a sunset provision would allow the department to gauge it’s public approval:

“Since 1976, the department has not been accountable to the people in any way, shape or form.”  Bringing the issue of the sales tax to the people is the perfect time for people to say that conservation is doing a great job, we want to continue to fund them at that level. [The department] should want this bill.”

While imposing a sunset provision on a tax forces the recipient to “sell” the tax to voters by outlining how the money is being used effectively, the possibility of a loss of funding could negatively impact long-term planning, which is particularly important in the realm of managing the state’s natural resources.

HJR28 isn’t the first piece of legislation (nor will it be the last) aimed at identifying an endpoint to an indefinite tax.  Sen. John Cauthorn (R) of the 21st district introduced 2012’s HJR22  proposing to sunset the tax and place it before voters every 10 years, but the measure failed to make it out of committee.  While past proposals failed to make it before voters, the indefinite nature of the Conservation Sales Tax will always make it a popular target for lawmakers who believe the MDC should have to scrap for cash like every other state governmental organization.  The conservation department and its allies will continue to argue that it was a voter-led initiative to create the tax without a sunset clause in 1974 and the will of the people should not be altered after the fact.

House Bill 315: Proposed by Representative Wanda Brown (R), 116th District – First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Second Read – 1/8/15

Summary: Requires the Department of Conservation to conduct testing of diseased deer found along state highways for chronic wasting disease.

While none of the bills proposed by Rep. Brown have the weight of those introduced by Sen. Munzlinger or Reps. Redmon and Spencer, each would impose new restrictions and impact the department’s bottom line.  HB315 places new constraints on the MDC’s Chronic Wasiting Disease testing program by expanding the testing effort to include deer killed my motorists.  CWD is an always-fatal disease of the brain impacting animals of the cervid family (Deer, Elk, etc.).  While there are no known cases of CWD spreading to humans, the CDC recommends not eating meat from harvested deer infected with the disease.  CWD could negatively impact the important economic benefits associated with the state’s robust hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.  The department started testing wild White-tailed deer for CWD in 2001 and found the first instance of the disease in 2010, when it located infected deer in captive deer preserves in Linn and Macon counties.  The disease was also found in wild deer near the captive deer facilities.

The MDC currently tests deer within the CWD containment zone, an area that covers Chariton, Randolph, Macon, Linn, Sullivan, and Adair counties in the north-central portion of the state.  The MDC believes that CWD wasn’t present in the state until it was introduced by way of the captive deer facilities in Macon and Linn counties.  The American Cervid Alliance and its allies in the House and Senate point to the cases of CWD among wild deer herds8 and the possibility of infection by way of Elk re-introductions as reason enough to spare the captive deer industry from the brunt of the blame.  By forcing the MDC to conduct CWD testing on deer killed along state highways, Rep. Brown’s bill would drastically increase the cost of the MDC’s CWD testing program.  As more deer continue to become infected within the state of Missouri (24 since 2010), the MDC will need to allocate more resources to halting the spread of CWD.  It remains to be seen how costly the testing of roadside deer would be, but utilizing the associated testing resources as part of a coordinated testing program would most likely be more efficient and effective.

House Bill 316: Proposed by Representative Wanda Brown (R), 116th District – First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Second Read – 1/8/15

Summary: Requires Conservation Commission members to register as lobbyists upon appointment by the Governor, and to follow all lobbyists rules and regulations.

Like Sen. Munzlinger’s SB337, Brown’s HB316 takes aim at the members of the department’s governing body – the Conservation Commissioners.  SB337 stemmed from a 2013 audit of the department that found 2 of the 4 commissioners had failed to report their service as board members for nonprofits contracted by the MDC.  Brown’s bill would force commission members, upon their appointment by the Governor, to register as lobbyists.  Registered lobbyists in the state of Missouri are required to file monthly reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission, detailing money spent on behalf of elected officials and proposed legislation they actively favor or oppose.  The Missouri Ethics Commission defines lobbyists as:

“an individual who attempts to influence state executive, state legislative or state judicial actions and meets one or more of the following:

  • Is acting in the ordinary course of business
  • Is engaged in pay as a lobbyist
  • Is designated to act as a lobbyist by any person, business entity, governmental entity, religious organization, nonprofit corporation, association or other entity
  • Spends $50 or more on behalf of public officials, annually, from January 1 through December 31st

An elected local government official’s lobbyist is an individual employed specifically for the purpose of attempting to influence any action by a local government official elected in a county”

Rep. Brown is certainly stretching the definition of lobbyist beyond its normal bounds by targeting government officials appointed by the sitting Governor.  It remains to be seen exactly what consequences this legislation would have on the current actions of the commissioners, but it’s a clear attempt to disrupt the actions of the commission and impact their expenditures.

House Bill 317: Proposed by Representative Wanda Brown (R), 116th District – First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Second Read – 1/8/15

Summary: Requires the Department of Conservation to reimburse automobile owners up to $500 for damages inflicted upon their vehicles by deer.

Rep. Brown’s HB317 essentially places ownership of Missouri’s robust deer herd squarely on the shoulders of the MDC and holds the department accountable for any damages associated with their “property”.  From a population of approximately 400 in 1925 to more than 1 million currently, Missouri’s population of wild deer ranks among the highest in the country9.  With a total of 3,563 deer-car collisions in 2011, the MDC would have been on the hook for over $1.7 million.  While that amount is just a fraction of the department’s nearly $150 million budget, it would certainly result in trimming a portion of that budget elsewhere.  In addition to the costs associated with deer-car collisions, it’s possible that HB317 could open the door to new bills targeting other damage to private property associated with Missouri wildlife.

House Bill 318: Proposed by Representative Wanda Brown (R), 116th District – First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Second Read – 1/8/15

Summary: Prohibits Department of Conservation agents from entering poultry barns without notifying the owner and requires agents entering the barns to take necessary precautions to prevent contamination.

While legislation aimed at the Missouri Department of Conservation ins’t new, the sheer breadth of bills proposed that would impact the department’s funding, leadership structure, and regulatory authority is unique.  While Sen. Munzlinger has backed off eliminating permit fees altogether and Rep. Redmon never truly intended to put the Conservation Sales tax before the voters, any of the remaining bills could have a lasting impact on the statewide conservation strategy should they move through congress.  Governor Nixon has shown his willingness to pull out his veto pen and go to bat for the MDC, but should a republican take over the top statewide office – all bets are off.

  1. You may recall Rep. Brown’s appearance on the Daily Show discussing 2012’s HB 1621
  2. As discussed in the Senate Legislative Update, the Missouri Department of Conservation receives approximately 60% of its funding by way of the sales tax, with the remaining 40% coming primarily from permit fees and related federal reimbursement dollars. 
  3. The absence of Representative Redmon’s name from a recent editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled, “Department of Conservation avoids questions about internal operations”, is telling – as the editorial was signed by a who’s-who of GOP lawmakers targeting the MDC. 
  4. Lawmakers, like Representative Spencer prefer the Depart of Agriculture to manage captive deer, despite the deparment’s lack of desire to take over regulatory control, and the belief by CWD experts that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has “dropped the ball” on “coordinating a multi-state response to it”
  5. When questioned about HJR8, Senator Redmon said, “When I introduced my bill, I was crucified. People called me a conservation hater, that I was trying to bring down the conservation department. But that wasn’t my intent at all. I think the Department of Conservation has done a good job. Still, I wanted to open up a dialogue about the department’s accountability, and I think we accomplished that. This tax has no sunset or review process, and I don’t agree with that. There have to be checks and balances in place.” 
  6. Tony Messenger, Editorial Page Editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, recently had an interesting take on those lawmakers beholden to the ACA titled, “FOUL: The revenge of the captive lawmaker”
  7. The section titled, “Current Sales Tax collected by the state” in Representative Spencer’s ‘Capital Report’ is identical to 2 paragraphs in Representative Reiboldt’s op-ed in the Neosho Daily News titled, “Bill Reiboldt: Representative talks about history of Missouri Department of Conservation” (which also appeared on his Missouri House site under the title, “Explaining the Conservation Tax”).  I’m still waiting on a response. 
  8. The Missouri Department of Conservation recently announced that 11 new cases of CWD have been identified in Macon, Adair and Cole counties. The infected buck harvested in Cole county marks the first instance of CWD outside (40 miles south) of the containment zone. 
  9. Though interestingly enough, Missouri doesn’t crack the top 10 in States with the highest deer-car collision rates (MO comes in at #17). 

Missouri Legislative Update – Senate Edition (Munzlinger vs. The MDC)

 MDC Logo

MDC in the legislative crosshairs

The start of Missouri’s legislative session signaled the continuation of a back-and-forth battle between a group of GOP lawmakers and the state’s Department of Conservation.  The general assembly has proposed 12 pieces of legislation1 targeting the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) funding, regulatory control, leadership structure, enforcement activity, and land ownership.

Proponents of the proposed legislation cite the need for increased accountability of the Conservation Department to taxpayers who help fund the department through the 1/8th of 1 percent Conservation Sales tax passed in 1976.  Unlike Missouri’s Soil and Park Tax2 (1/10th of 1 percent), which is approved by voters every 10 years, the conservation sales tax lacks a sunset clause.  The sales tax averages ~$100 million of annual revenue for the department and represents nearly 60% of the department’s budget, with the majority of the remaining 40% (~$50 million) coming from the collection of permit fees (~20%) and associated federal reimbursement dollars (~15%).3  None of the department’s funding comes from general revenue.

The Conservation Department has cautioned that any reduction in funding levels could jeopardize the entire state conservation program and points out that the $150 million budget of the department, which represents less than 1% of the total state budget, results in annual revenue of $12 billion from hunting, fishing, and forest products.4  The Department enjoys broad public support, as evidenced by 2013 polling numbers from the University of Missouri, which found ⅔ of those questioned believed the department was doing an “excellent” or “good” job.  The battle lines have been drawn and there’s a lot of proposed legislation to unpack, so let’s get started.

 Here’s a rundown of the proposed legislation coming out of the Senate:

Senate Bill 56: Proposed by Senator Munzlinger (R), 18th District –  First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Hearing conducted (2/25/15)- Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee

Summary: Proposed legislation modifying hunting, fishing, and trapping permit fees for Missouri residents.

As it was originally introduced, this bill would have stripped the Conservation Department of the ability to charge fees associated with permits for Missouri residents, with the exception of no more than $2 in service fees.  Senator Munzlinger recently softened the bill’s language following the revelation by the MDC that federal law required state wildlife agencies to collect permit fees in order to receive matching federal funds5 – funds that would have been rerouted to other states if permit fees were no longer collected.  Senator Munzlinger has proposed a 50% permit fee discount for non-residents that own at least 80 acres of land in Missouri in place of the original bill language.

Senate Bill 178: Proposed by Senator Munzlinger (R), 18th District – First read – 1/29/15

Current Status: Second read (1/29/15) and referred to Senate Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee.

Summary: Proposed legislation to modify provisions relating to captive cervids.

2015’s SB 178 is a replica of Senator Munzlinger’s 2014 legislation (SB 506), which would have added captive deer to the definition of livestock.  Reclassifying captive deer would transfer regulatory authority from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture.  This transfer would ease restrictions on the captive deer (high-fence, “fish-in-a-barrel” hunting) industry.  2014’s bill moved through the Senate and the House before meeting Governor Nixon’s veto pen.  In a statement regarding the bill (and House Bill 1326), Nixon said:6

“Redefining deer as livestock to remove the regulatory role of Department defies both its clear record of achievement as well as common sense. White-tailed deer are wildlife and also game animals – no matter if they’re roaming free, or enclosed in a fenced area.”

Battle lines have been drawn over the issue of captive deer regulatory control, with the American Cervid Alliance (representing 39 elk, deer, and exotic associations) hiring the notorious PR firm Berman & Co.7 to help change public opinion of the captive deer industry through the creation of nonprofit corporations and the placement of messages throughout local media from supportive lawmakers8 and industry insiders.  Governor Nixon has maintained the Conservation Department’s constitutional authority over the management of wildlife and the department has pointed to the risk the industry poses for the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease9 (CWD) among wild deer as justification for the more stringent regulations passed since the veto.

The new regulations, which the captive deer industry believe will cripple their businesses, include: banning the importation of deer from other states, testing diseased deer at least 6 months old for CWD, and installing 8-foot tall fencing.  Governor Nixon recently summarized the argument for supporting the status quo:

“I think sticking with the model we’ve had in the past, an independent organization that has direct dedicated fund is focused just on that, that gives them the flexibility and the responsibility to make a good long term decision to give us a better strategy to keep Chronic Wasting Disease out of Missouri and to keep our deer herd healthy”.

Senate Bill 337: Proposed by Senator Munzlinger (R), 18th District – First read – 1/28/15

Current Status: Second read (2/19/15) and referred to Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions, and Ethics Committee.

Summary:  Bans the Conservation Commission and the Department of Conservation from engaging in prohibited conduct with a connected not-for-profit corporation.

This proposal stems directly from the results of a 2013 audit of the Conservation Department by state auditor Tom Schweich, that uncovered conflicts of interest associated with 2 of the 4 conservation commissioners.  The commissioners had violated state law by failing to disclose that they were serving on boards for non-for-profit corporations contracted by the MDC.  That same 2013 audit found that the MDC had provided pay raises that had not been provided to other state employees and that the MDC failed to accurately estimate the costs of an elk reintroduction project (129 had been introduced as of the 2013 report) that ballooned from an estimated cost of $411,000 to an actual cost of $3,381,615.

The 2013 audit gave the MDC a “Good” grade, which describes a “well managed” organization that “has indicated that most or all recommendations have already been, or will be, implemented” and that “prior recommendations have been implemented”.  The pay raises and the price tag of the elk introduction10 have been the primary talking points for GOP lawmakers and the allies of the captive deer industry trying to make the case for reigning in the department’s spending.  This bill could potentially impact many of the MDC’s conservation efforts, as it would jeopardize partnerships with nonprofit organizations, such as The Audubon Society of Missouri, that play significant roles in monitoring and managing wildlife statewide.

Senate Joint Resolution 1: Proposed by Senator Munzlinger (R), 18th District – First read – 1/7/15

Current Status: Second read (2/5/15) and referred to Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee.

Summary: Modifies the membership composition and terms of service of the commissioners on the Conservation Commission.

If approved by voters, this proposed constitutional amendment would increase the number of Conservation Commissioners from 4 to 8 and would require one commissioner to be appointed from each of the 8 conservation regions.  This amendment would also change the term limits for commissioners from 6 years to either 2 terms or 12 years – whichever comes first.  Senator Munzlinger’s argument for altering the composition of the commission comes down to taxpayer representation.  “Northeast Missouri hasn’t had someone on the commission in more than 35 years“, stated Senator Munzlinger when asked about the resolution.

Opponents to the measure maintain that the current structure – 4 commissioners appointed by the governor, with no more than 2 from the same political party – has largely kept politics out of departmental decision-making.  If commissioners are advocating for specific constituents, the argument goes, resources will be fought over, rather than shared for a holistic long-term conservation plan with the entire state in mind.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 25: Proposed by Senator Munzlinger (R), 18th District – Offered – 2/19/15

Current Status: Referred (2/23/15) to Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics committee.

Summary: Establishes the Missouri Wildlife Revitalization Task Force.

While this resolution lacks the force of law, it does initiate a process that would focus research and proposed legislation and/or other proposals to minimize the negative impacts on areas of the state that are currently, or will be, dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease.  While there exists no evidence of transmission of CWD from animal to human, the presence of the disease poses serious health threats to deer populations and to public perceptions surrounding deer hunting and the consumption of venison.  This resolution effectively aims to do what the Conservation Department is tasked with by law, manage wildlife populations.

While the task force lacks teeth and cannot force the Conservation Department’s hand, it will be able to “call upon any department, office, division, or agency of this state to assist in gathering information pursuant to its objective”.  The task force will consist of a combination of lawmakers, conservation and hunting organization representatives, landowners in affected areas, and captive deer industry representatives.  The task force is set to be terminated by either a majority vote or by December 31, 2015, at which time a final report will be issued to the general assembly and the Department of Conservation.

Coordinated legislative effort

 After the veto of 2014’s Senate Bill 506, Senator Munzlinger has only redoubled his efforts to influence the funding, regulatory authority, and leadership composition of the Conservation Department.  The slew of legislation taking aim at the MDC isn’t Senator Munzlinger’s crusade alone, as evidenced by the many bills introduced in the House.  Stay tuned for the House edition of the “Missouri Legislative Update” with a focus on the Department of Conservation.

  1. Plus 1 Concurrent Resolution (SCR 25) for good measure. 
  2. Approved by voters in 1984, half of this tax goes towards the funding of Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks. Some lawmakers have argued that many voters in 1976 wrongly believed that the conservation sales tax would help fund the maintenance of Missouri state parks. 
  3. see MDC 2012-2013 Annual Report and MDC 2014-2015 Budget Request 
  4. Revenue based on a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recreation survey
  5. The Pittmon-Robertson Act of 1937 provides funds to each state for wildlife management based upon land area and the number of permitted hunters. 
  6. Governor Nixon’s veto message can be viewed here
  7. Several high-profile pieces have been written about Richard B. Berman and his PR firm. Here are just a few
  8. Representative Bryan Spencer recently accused the ACA and their PR firm of submitting an op-ed with unauthorized content to several Missouri newspapers under his name. I have found additional “shared content” used by Representative Spencer and Representative Bill Reiboldt in recent op-eds/newsletters. This is a clear example of the captive deer industry using sympathetic lawmakers as their mouthpiece. 
  9. INDYSTAR’s Ryan Sabalow brought to light many of the issues surrounding Chronic Wasting Disease and the captive deer industry in his incredible investigative piece, “Buck Fever”
  10. The captive deer industry has also pointed to the department’s Elk introduction as a possible source for CWD transmission among wild cervids.