By Shelby Mullis
Concerns about safe drinking water guided Gov. Mike Pence to veto a bill Thursday.
House Bill 1082 would have prevented the standards and rules by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from going into effect, if they were tougher than federal law, until after the end of the next General Assembly. The legislation is also referred to as the “no more stringent than” bill.
“In recent months, public concern over clean and safe drinking water has grown as a result of the situation in Flint, Michigan,” said Gov. Mike Pence in a statement.
“With this veto, Hoosiers can be assured that we will continue to have the necessary discretion and flexibility to create Indiana solutions at the state level and act in a timely way to protect our drinking water,” he said.
The Hoosier Environmental Council called HB 1082 “a major threat to Indiana environmental protection.” Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda said he welcomes Pence’s veto.
“As a state, we need to really be focused on public policies that move our state forward when it comes to quality of life—not freeze us or even move us backward,” Kharbanda said.
Some environmental advocates argued HB 1082 would have the potential to increase risks to public health, paralyze Indiana’s environmental agency from implementing state plans and weaken state rights.
The bill’s author, Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, said the intention of the bill was to give the Legislative Council more say in determining environmental regulations.
“The governor obviously did not read the bill or didn’t understand it,” Wolkins said. “He obviously is listening to his political people who are all scared to death because they try to tie the bill to Flint, Michigan and that bill had absolutely nothing to do with Flint, Michigan. Somehow, the governor’s political people got him convinced that this is a bad thing and I think he’s totally wrong.”
Wolkins said he will continue to push for the bill in future legislative sessions, but Kharbanda said he wants to eliminate the risk of the bill making a comeback.
“We want to continue to raise the issue that drinking water safety can never be taken for granted,” Kharbanda said. “Indiana’s economic future is intimately tied with quality of life. Anything that would impede our ability to proactively prevent drinking water contamination would be wrong.”
TheStatehouseFile.com reached out to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for comment, but the organization did not have one.