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Monday, February 10, 2014

Environment - "Indiana’s legacy of environmental stewardship is decidedly poor"

That is how an editorial in yesterday's Indianapolis Star (to which I can't find a link) begins. It continues:

Most of our rivers are tainted with dangerous levels of mercury. Most of our wetlands were long ago drained to add farmland. And our air quality consistently has ranked among the worst in the nation, an unfortunate byproduct of our heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants.

So it’s discouraging — given that record and given the importance for Hoosiers’ health and quality of life to protect our air, land and water — to see what’s been happening this year in the Indiana General Assembly.

Lawmakers seem determined, for example, to further reduce already loose regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations. The Senate this past week approved legislation (SB 186) that could block local governments, state regulators and ordinary citizens from slowing the rapid growth of CAFOs in Indiana. Such farms, which raise thousands of hogs or chickens at a time, generate large quantities of animal waste that can, if not managed carefully, pollute lakes and rivers. Odor also is a frequent concern. * * *

On the House side, legislators have pushed through HB 1143, a measure that would prohibit state government from enforcing any regulations stronger than federal environmental rules. Philosophically, that’s a strange position for a legislature that often chafes against federal mandates. Practically, it could slow the ability of state agencies to respond to Indianaspecific problems, including environmental disasters.

Both of these bills, and others now before the General Assembly, stem from a mindset that state agencies and local governments can’t be trusted to take businesses’ needs into fair consideration. But regulators in Indiana never have been particularly tough on industry, and the Pence administration has followed the Daniels administration’s lead of working to further reduce state regulations.

So why would Indiana voluntarily handcuff itself with laws that could block local elected officials, the state’s environmental experts and perhaps even judges from taking the needs of all Hoosiers into proper consideration?

SB 186 and HB 1143 should not survive the second half of this year’s session.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 10, 2014 09:49 AM
Posted to Environment