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Friday, January 17, 2014

Environment - "No more stringent" rules limitation effort back again

Ray Steele of WIBC reports, with audio, in a story headed "Environmental Group Opposing New Bill on Regulations." Some quotes:

An environmental group says a bill before Indiana lawmakers could lead to a regulatory atmosphere similar to the one they say contributed to the West Virginia chemical spill. The bill's sponsor says that claim is overblown.

The bill (HB 1143) heard by the House Environmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday would bar state regulators from enacting environmental rules that are more stringent than their corresponding federal rules. A committee vote on the bill is expected next week. Representative David Wolkins (R, Warsaw) says he introduced the bill more as a prevention measure.

"There is nothing that I'm aware of on the horizon," Wolkins said when asked if he thought the federal Environmental Protection Agency was about to propose regulations that he believes would harm Indiana industries. "A few years ago, we had a assistant commissioner of (the Indiana Department of Environmental Management) who started a rule making , whereby under the Clean Air Act we were going to have to test for 60 different substances. The federal standard was only five."

Some environmentalists, however, believe the bill will tie the hands of regulators if they need to enact rules to address gaps in regulations. "Perhaps to put some pollution controls on massive, fecal-filled lagoons at large hog farms; they wouldn't be able to do so if (the bill) were enacted," said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. He believes more power in the hands of regulators could have prevented the chemical leak that caused 300,000 West Virginians to lose their tap water for several days.

Wolkins says he doesn't know the specifics of what happened in West Virginia, saying perhaps an existing environmental rule wasn't enforced properly. But he says the state will still have the freedom to add rules as it sees fit. He just wants that decision to come from lawmakers instead of regulatory agencies. "If we have a unique situation whereby we need to be more stringent than the federal rule, we can do that. The legislature should make that happen rather than a bureaucrat."

ILB: This is certainly not the first time this effort has been made. Here is a long list of ILB entries, going back to 2005, using the term "no more stringent." Reading them is instructive. For instance, from an Indianapolis Star editorial in 2005:
Provisions barring the state's air pollution and water pollution control boards from adopting rules or standards more stringent than federal regulations were slipped into Senate Bill 298, a measure dealing with regulations affecting small businesses. According to state Sen. Beverly Gard, Republican chairwoman of the Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee, the amendments were an "end run" around her committee.

"It's a terrible piece of legislation that has serious consequences," the normally reserved legislator said. "We abdicate to the feds to set all of our environmental policy."

The measure could make it impossible for state environmental agencies to establish health-based standards and reporting requirements if a cluster of health problems should emerge. Indiana rule makers could be hamstrung dealing with issues unique to Indiana that the federal government doesn't address. Almost any state rule dealing with the air, water or the disposal of hazardous waste could be tied up in court for years.

The state might as well abolish its environmental boards. They would be nothing more than handmaidens to federal bureaucrats.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 17, 2014 08:42 AM
Posted to Environment