House expands 'renewable' energy list 

By Shelby D. Salazar

A committee in the Indiana House of Representatives moved a measure Thursday that would add hydrogen and coal bed methane to the state's list of renewable resources, making related energy projects eligible for government financial incentives.

House Bill 1128 emerged from the House Committee on Utilities and Energy, 9-1, despite concerns expressed by environmental groups.The bill originally dealt only with hydrogen, but its author, Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), amended HB 1128 to include coal bed methane on the list.The committee adopted the amendment, 6-2.

"There's a great opportunity to use coal that's in the ground – 6000 acres," Koch said. "Indiana has that."

Advocates for the bill said it would help the state develop an energy strategy.

"It solves the three problems we have with energy," said Kurt Koehler, founder and president of AlGalCo Hydrogen on Tap. "The three problems are energy security, problems with emissions and renewability.

"This is an Indiana business," Koehler added. "And it helps Indiana become a leader in something that can solve this problem."

Caleb Steiner, representing Hoosier Energy, stepped forward to express his group's support for the bill. Hoosier Energy owns 6,000 acres of land in Sullivan County, where they are conducting a coal bed methane project.

But environmental advocates weren't entirely convinced. Kerwin Olson, program director of Citizens Action Coalition, opposed the bill after the addition of coal bed methane. The group considers hydrogen to be an alternate resource, but not a renewable resource. Neither hydrogen nor coal bed methane fit into the definition of what a renewable resource is, Olson said.

Other advocates agreed. [As reported previously in NUVO, the practice has been shown to pollute groundwater supplies — Eds.]

"We would express some concerns about the inclusion of coal bed methane," Tim Maloney, senior policy director of the Hoosier Environmental Council said. "But the addition of hydrogen derived from renewable resources will be a reasonable addition to the list."

The above is one of an ongoing series of daily reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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