If you care about Indiana’s natural environment, pay attention.
The Tribune front page Associated Press article on February 16th reported on an Indiana Senate committee hearing about House Bill 1082. This bill passed the Indiana House with co-sponsorship by Representative Heath VanNatter and the “aye” vote of both him and Representative Mike Karickhoff, our local representatives. What are they thinking?
HB1082 strips the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Environmental Rules Board (ERB) of the authority to make or enforce any environmental rules or standards more stringent than the corresponding regulation or standard established under federal law. In short, this says that VanNatter and Karickhoff trust the federal government more than Hoosiers to make the wisest decisions about Indiana environmental protection. They want the federal government to set both the floor and the ceiling on environmental regulations. In the past, the federal government has set only the floor. Under this bill, Hoosiers will not be able to address unique environmental issues with stronger regulations than elsewhere in the nation even if Hoosiers decide they are needed. Any stronger regulations would only be permitted under specific statute passed by the General Assembly. No immediate actions could be taken. The IDEM Environmental Rules Board would be in a straight jacket. One must wonder why.
The IDEM Environmental Rules Board, which makes environmental policy in Indiana, consists of 16 members including 11 appointed by the governor and 6 specifically defined ex officio members. The ERB came into existence on January 1, 2013, but did not meet until after the inauguration on January 14th of Governor Mike Pence. Under the legislation that established the ERB; the Indiana Air Pollution Control Board, Solid Waste Management Board, and the Water Pollution Control Board were all abolished. Shortly after Pence’s inauguration, he issued an executive order placing a moratorium on new regulations, and announced plans to initiate a process to review all existing regulations with the exception of federal mandates not subject to a waiver request, rules needed to reduce the cost or burden on job creation, and rules to address emergency health or safety concerns. Again, in short, he took action to prevent adoption of any more stringent environmental regulations. Now comes HB1082 which adds to limiting the authority of the ERB. Why?
The AP article tells why. Fred Mills, the director of governmental affairs for the Indiana Energy Association, is quoted as saying “This is not about what is happening today, this is about what could happen.” The article goes on to point out that IDEM’s leadership could be shuffled by a Democratic governor in the future who is “less inclined to give business a break”. So, here it is: control. The passage of HB1082 cements that control by making it a requirement that any regulation more stringent than federal regulation be approved by specific General Assembly statute. The concern is not about protection of our natural environment. Be clear, it is about political and corporate control.