Chesterton Tribune

Two Indiana environmental groups merge

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Staff report

Franklin College Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Hoosier Environmental Council and the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation announced Monday that the two not-for-profits have merged and will continue operations as the Hoosier Environmental Council.

The merged group will focus on “advocating for priorities that advance Indiana’s environment and business climate such as clean energy, 21st Century transportation systems and sustainable agriculture,” HEC said in a press release.

“Through previous successful partnerships, HEC and LEAF have discovered there is a great deal of synergy in our missions, staff, services to the public, and reach throughout the state of Indiana,” said Jesse Kharbanda, the Hoosier Environmental County’s executive director. “By joining forces, our organization will be able to better educate and advocate for solutions that better protect our air, water, and wilderness, while making our state more economically prosperous.”

Previously, HEC focused largely on environmental policy development and advocacy. LEAF focused on providing legal representation and assistance to communities trying to balance economic development and environmental protection.

The merger will enhance Hoosier Environmental Council’s reach in Northwest and North-Central Indiana, where LEAF has predominantly worked. Kim Ferraro, who had been LEAF’s executive director, will assume the role of water and agricultural policy director for the merged group.

HEC will open up a third office in Valparaiso, while its headquarters will remain in Indianapolis.

“A balanced environmental policy that promotes sustainable development and environmental preservation is essential for improving quality of life among Hoosiers,” said Ferraro in a statement. “Combining our strengths will expand the capacity of our new organization to ensure public interests, not special interests, drive environmental policy and land use decisions which will make our state a better and safer place to live, work and play.”

Environmental leaders tell legislative goals

Leigh DeNoon

Indiana News Service

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana mass transit is an issue taking center stage at the Hoosier Environmental Council’s annual “Greening the Statehouse” forum this Saturday, December 10. Council executive director Jesse Kharbanda says 96 cents of every dollar spent by the state on transportation goes to highways and road projects.

“Our state’s biggest cities dramatically underspend compared to our peer cities when it comes to public transit. And survey after survey shows that public transit is an important element of what is going to attract a young professional to a community.”

Kharbanda says keynote speaker Jim Motavalli, an expert on mass transit and green car technologies, will address bi-partisan solutions for transportation issues. Water quality and clean energy are also priorities.

On those matters, Kharbanda says too many Hoosiers over-fertilize lawns, sending excess phosphorus into ditches, streams and reservoirs.

“We’re needlessly fostering the conditions for algae blooms, which lead to fish kills, which leads to dirty-looking water, which degrades water quality and potentially poses risks to drinking water quality.”

Kharbanda says the council would like to find a way to reduce the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers in the state.

He says another legislative priority is to help commercial property owners in Indiana improve energy efficiency in their buildings through a program called “PACE.”

“Property Assessed Clean Energy Bonds. And the funds that are generated from bonding provide low-interest loans to commercial property owners so that they can upgrade the equipment in their buildings and potentially cut energy costs by 30 to 40 percent.”

Kharbanda encourages anyone interested in the environment to register and attend Saturday at Butler University from 8:30 to 3.

More information on the forum is at



Posted 12/5/2011