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Bill Targeting Controversial Kansas City Landfill Clears Initial Missouri House Vote State representative urges colleagues to fix a ‘broken process that unfairly hurts Missourians’

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Above image credit: Rep. Mike Haffner is sponsoring legislation that would allow neighboring communities a voice in whether landfills can be built in Kansas City within half a mile of the border (Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications)
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Lawmakers must change a “broken process that unfairly hurts Missourians” to keep a landfill from moving into south Kansas City without residents’ input, state Rep. Mike Haffner told his colleagues Tuesday.

Speaking on the floor of the Missouri House, Haffner argued that a landfill proposed for a site at Kansas City’s southern border would devastate the environment, residents’ property values and surrounding suburbs’ economic development efforts. The project, he said, is “exactly what’s wrong with politics.”

Starting last year when rumors of the proposed landfill began circulating, Haffner has pushed legislation meant to give surrounding communities more sway over landfills proposed at the edges of Kansas City. 

“The location of landfills should be open and transparent,” said Haffner, a Pleasant Hill Republican. “It should be publicly discussed with the community and not done in the dark of night.”

Haffner urged the House again Tuesday to pass his legislation and protect suburban municipalities surrounding Kansas City.

Seventy Republicans joined with 43 Democrats in support of the bill, with 30 Republicans voting against. It faces one more House vote before it can move to the Missouri Senate, where Republican Sens. Mike Cierpiot and Rick Brattin are sponsoring identical legislation.

KC Recycle & Waste Solutions, owned by a married couple from the Kansas City metro, has proposed building a landfill at the southern tip of Kansas City where it borders Raymore. The site, just south of Missouri Highway 150, is within a mile of the Creekmoor golf course community with homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million. 

News of the proposed landfill, which would occupy about 270 acres, roiled nearby communities who have organized against the project and formed a political action committee, Kill The Fill.

Under current law, Missouri environmental regulators can’t issue a permit for a landfill in Kansas City within half a mile of a neighboring municipality unless that municipality signs off on it. Haffner’s bill would increase the buffer zone to a mile, effectively giving the surrounding community veto power over KC Recycle & Waste Solutions’ project.

“No one outside of the owners and developers of this $1 billion project, their 20-plus hired lobbyists want this landfill,” Haffner said on the House floor, referencing the fact that the Monheisers’ company currently has 19 lobbyists registered with the state. The city of Raymore has three. 

One of Haffner’s fellow Republican lawmakers, state Rep. Mark Matthiesen of O’Fallon, acknowledged spending time close to a landfill can have detrimental health effects. But he argued those effects occur within 500 meters, less than one-third of a mile. 

“If the neighborhood was 1.1 miles away instead of 0.8 miles…the bill we’d be talking about would expand that regulation to 1.2 miles or whatever arbitrary number we’re gonna pull out of the hat so that we can change the established process of Missouri,” Matthiesen said. 

Jennifer Monheiser, one of the owners of KC Recycle & Waste Solutions owners, said in an emailed statement to The Independent that 60% of Kansas City voters “see existing landfill capacity as a serious problem.”

“We’re confident that our proposed project is the right solution,” she said, “and we look forward to continuing to work with elected officials to address this critical problem facing our region.”

Haffner and Brattin pursued the same legislation last year. It cleared the Missouri House but got stuck in the Senate. Haffner and Brattin are now running against each other in the GOP primary for that state Senate seat. Also in the primary is state Rep. Dan Houx of Warrensburg, who voted in support of Haffner’s bill on Tuesday. 

Last year, state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a Republican from Arnold, launched a filibuster in an attempt to kill Brattin’s bill. He responded the next day with a filibuster of his own, holding the floor for four hours during the final days of the legislative session as members faced a constitutionally-mandated deadline to pass the state budget.

Eventually, Brattin struck a deal with Senate leadership to fund a study by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources into the effect a landfill would have on surrounding schools, residents, the environment and property values. 

Gov. Mike Parson vetoed the funding for the study.

Allison Kite is a data reporter for the Missouri Independent, where this story first appeared, with a focus on the environment and agriculture.

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