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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Environment - "Head of state's environmental agency faces criticism for relationship with coal industry"

That is the headline of a story this morning in the Indianapolis Star, reported by Ryan Sabalow. Some quotes from the very long story:

The top official at Indiana's environmental regulatory agency is again facing criticism for being too chummy with the industry groups he is responsible for policing.

This time, the criticism of Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Thomas Easterly stems from a presentation he gave in November in Washington, D.C., to policymakers at a conservative lobbying group's forum heavily sponsored by the coal industry.

During his talk, Easterly decried federal air-quality regulations as being overly expensive, impractical and ineffective and said they would all but block the creation of new coal-fired power plants. Environmentalist critics say that during his talk he also appeared to offer pointers on how to sway public opinion, draft legislation and file legal challenges to combat the regulations.

Easterly has defended his actions as being in the best interest of Hoosiers and the environment, but both Indiana and national environmentalists say they are appalled he would advocate so fiercely against the very laws his office is tasked to enforce. * * *

The Indianapolis Star requested an interview with Easterly to discuss his presentation to the American Legislative Exchange Council's "States and Nation Policy Summit." Instead, IDEM forwarded a response Easterly provided to a citizen who contacted the agency, concerned about the speech.

"I want to assure you that whenever I speak on an issue it is to protect both Hoosiers and our environment," Easterly wrote. "In this case, I was talking about three current regulatory efforts that do virtually nothing for the environment but will add a lot of cost to electricity that people use. This cost will reduce people's ability to use their income for important Indiana issues such as education and health care." * * *

Easterly's PowerPoint became fodder for critics last month when it was posted along with other handouts from the presentation on Greenpeace's blog and later on The Nation's website. The Nation is a liberal national news magazine.

Greenpeace described the ALEC forum as an "anti-environmental jamboree" that had been "inundated with coal money."

"Easterly's suggestion of burdening EPA with tasks beyond its responsibility is concerning," Greenpeace wrote, "as is his ongoing campaign to discredit the science of global warming -- something he doesn't have the scientific qualifications to do. To this end, the Indiana regulator fits nicely into the coal industry's long history of denying problems they don't want to be held accountable for and delaying solutions to those problems."

The story links to the ALEC PowerPoint presentation and to this Greenpeace press release. Gov. Pence recently reappointed Easterly to head IDEM, a position he has held for 8 years under Gov. Daniels. Here is a list of earlier ILB entries re ALEC.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 3, 2013 10:35 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government