INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana regulators would be barred from adopting environmental rules tougher
than federal standards under a bill that’s advancing in the General Assembly
but has drawn criticisms that it would hamper efforts to protect the state’s
environment and public health.
Republican-controlled Indiana House passed the bill Tuesday on a 68-28
partisan vote. The measure, which now heads to the Senate, would bar
Indiana’s environmental regulators “from adopting a rule or standard that is
more stringent than” corresponding federal rules or standards.
State Rep. David
Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, said the measure he’s offered for several years is
aimed at curtailing future actions by state regulators he fears could
someday pursue environmental regulations that would be costly to Indiana’s
appointees come and go. And if we get somebody who is a very rabid
environmentalist, the fact is, they just don’t pay any attention to the cost
of things,” he said Wednesday.
But Beverly Gard, a
former Republican state senator who now heads Indiana’s Environmental Rules
Board that handles rule-making for air, water and solid waste regulations,
said the measure is “bad public policy” and would bind the hands of the
Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Gard said existing
state law already details what steps must be taken if rules are proposed
that are more stringent than existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
If the bill passes
the Legislature, she said it could have numerous ramifications, including
limiting what rules IDEM could propose to address the large amounts of
manure produced by the state’s big livestock farms.
statute seems to me to be working, and Indiana hasn’t had a history of
really going overboard on environmental rule-making as far as rules more
stringent than federal standards,” Gard said. “I think it’s bad public
policy. It just wouldn’t allow Indiana the flexibility to meet its needs.”
State Sen. Ed
Charbonneau, a Valparaiso Republican who’s sponsoring the bill in the
Senate, said he hasn’t looked closely at the measure’s language but will be
assessing it in the weeks ahead and will take Gard’s concerns into account.
He chairs the
Senate’s environmental affairs committee, which Gard had long chaired until
her retirement in 2012.
“We’ll vet it, give
it a hearing. I’m certainly going to listen, and then we’ll make a decision
on where we go after we have testimony in the committee,” Charbonneau said.
Rep. Matt Pierce,
D-Bloomington, who spoke out against the bill before Tuesday’s vote, said he
believes the measure arose from a push by industries and affiliated lobbying
groups that want to limit environmental regulations.
Pierce noted that
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed a similar measure in
December 2011 that had been approved by that state’s GOP-led Legislature.
Snyder had said he worried that measure would undermine Michigan’s ability
to address environmental concerns.
Indiana’s bill is likely to pass the Senate even though he believes it
“isn’t motivated by the idea of maximizing the protection of the public
“I don’t see why we
should fear our own state deciding what’s best for our people and our
environment,” he said.
executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the group
strongly opposes Wolkins’ bill. He said that if the measure becomes law it
would hamstring the state’s response to environmental concerns such as coal
ash sludge and large factory-style livestock farms.
“Especially in the
wake of the so recent, massive chemical spill in West Virginia, which denied
300,000 people drinking water for days, it’s remarkably unwise to
effectively disable Indiana’s executive branch to deal with a wide array of
environmental challenges,” Kharbanda said.