A lawsuit over a controversial hog confinement in southern Cooper County is on hold while a similar lawsuit is heard in the Missouri Supreme Court.

Construction hasn’t started on Tipton East, a large hog farrowing operation planned near Clarksburg, said Susan Williams, a leader of Opponents of Cooper County CAFOs. That group is suing the Missouri Clean Water Commission, arguing it should not have issued an operating permit to Tipton East.

A major argument in its lawsuit is that the commission has been in violation of the constitution since 2016, when the Missouri General Assembly passed a law to change its composition. It’s the same argument used by Hickory Neighbors United in its lawsuit seeking to halt the Trenton Farms hog operation in Grundy County in northern Missouri.

The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals granted the state’s request for a stay in the Cooper County case last week, while the Supreme Court decides the Grundy County case. Monday was the deadline for both sides to file briefs in that case and the court hasn’t set a date for oral arguments.

The Tipton East permit is still valid and effective, though the facility may wait for the appeal to be resolved before it begins operating, said Missouri Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Connie Patterson.

Williams was glad for the stay and that the Supreme Court will rule on one of the Opponents of Cooper County CAFOs’ arguments, she said.

Stephen Jeffery, a St. Louis-based attorney, represents the CAFO opponents in both cases. He argues that four of the five Clean Water commissioners were appointed in violation of the Missouri Constitution. The change in law that allowed their appointment was passed in violation of the constitution, he argues.

The original bill, filed by Rep. Tim Remole, R-Excello, would have required the department to tell municipalities with wastewater treatment systems what options they have to update their system to meet discharge regulations.

That bill passed the House and moved on to the Senate, where then-Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, added an amendment to change the Clean Water Commission.

The constitution says no bill can be amended to change its original purpose, and no bill can be about more than one subject, which must be in the title of the bill. The original title for Remole’s bill was “relating to wastewater treatment systems.”

Before 2016, the seven-member commission had four members representing the general public, one with experience with wastewater, and no more than two representing agriculture, mining and industry. Munzlinger’s amendment changed it so at least two members had to represent industry, and no more than four could represent the general public.

The commission voted 4-1 in January to uphold the operating permit it issued last June to Tipton East after Opponents of Cooper County CAFOs appealed to have the permit withdrawn. Of the five commissioners who voted on the appeal, four were appointed after the law changed in 2016.

Ashley McCarty, commission chair and executive director of the pro-CAFO advocacy group Missouri Farmers Care, is the only commissioner who was appointed before the change. She is listed on the commission’s website as one of the two industry representatives, along with Stan Coday, a farmer, agriculture teacher and Wright County Farm Bureau president.

Pat Thomas, who is treasurer of the Missouri Republican Party, was chief of staff for Munzlinger, a leading advocate for CAFOs in the Senate until his term ended this year. Allen Rowland has served on the boards of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council. He also served as secretary and treasurer of the Southeast Missouri Regional Water District.

Both are listed as representatives of the general public.

John Reece is the designated representative with experience in wastewater treatment, and was the only commissioner to vote against the Tipton East permit in January. Reece retired in 2011 as executive director of the Little Blue Valley Sewer District in Jackson County.