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Friday, April 04, 2014

Environment - "Global warming comment sets off tempest at IDEM"

The Indianapolis Star has a story today by John Russell that begins:

Keith Baugues is not a scientist, but that didn't stop him on a recent wintry day from expressing skepticism about global warming — something that is broadly accepted in the scientific community.

After weeks of heavy snow and freezing air, he had had enough. He took to a governmnent message board one day in February, complaining that his normal 45-minute commute had turned into a painful three-hour slog. "Anyone who says global warming is obviously suffering from frostbite," he wrote.

Baugues would later say he was only joking. But he wasn't just any government bureaucrat. Baugues is assistant commissioner in the Office of Air Quality in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the man in charge of cleaning up Indiana's air.

In a state that traditionally ranks near the top for pollution and coal production — both of which are thought to contribute to global warming — his words rubbed his own employees the wrong way.

Reaction was swift, according to remarks posted to the message board reviewed by The Indianapolis Star. Several IDEM staff members wrote that the comment flew in the face of nearly unanimous scientific consensus and offended and embarrassed them.

ILB: Baugues occupies the IDEM position earlier held by Janet McCabe - see this Feb. 16, 2014 ILB post about McCabe, currently acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, "the national equivalent of McCabe's long-time job in Indiana, as Indiana's top air regulator until Gov. Daniels took office in 2005."

Some may draw comparisons to the stories about recent changes to the North Carolina environmental agency reported in this Feb. 28, 2014 ILB post, quoting a NYT story headed "Coal Ash Spill Shows How a State Watchdog Was Defanged," including this quote:

Current and former state regulators said the watchdog agency, once among the most aggressive in the Southeast, has been transformed under Gov. Pat McCrory into a weak sentry that plays down science, has abandoned its regulatory role and suffers from politicized decision-making.

The episode is a huge embarrassment for Mr. McCrory, who worked at Duke Energy for 28 years and is a former mayor of Charlotte, where the company is based. And it has become yet another point of contention in North Carolina, where Republicans who took control of the General Assembly in 2011 and the governor’s mansion last year have passed sweeping laws in line with conservative principles. They have affected voting rights and unemployment benefits, as well as what Republicans called “job-killing” environmental regulations, which have received less notice.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 4, 2014 09:09 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government