The Indiana Legislature vs. the environment, 2016 version 

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The Indiana State Legislature is in session, and believe me, the rights of LGBTQ Hoosiers aren’t the only things on the table. It’s as if the Groundhog Assembly has gathered at the statehouse rather than the General Assembly: We’ll see some of the same attempts to weaken Indiana’s environmental standards we’ve seen before.

Here’s how you can stay vigilant:

Keep your eyes on the Hoosier Environmental Council’s Bill Watch 2016 pages for updates on “No More Stringent Than” (HB 1082) and other pertinent issues. Subscribe to HEC e-news (hecweb.org/get-involved/e-news/) to get Action Alerts regarding these issues.


RELATED: Could a Flint water crisis happen here?

“No more stringent than” means that Indiana wouldn’t be able to pass any regulations that go beyond federal law — if the EPA is weak in any area, local government wouldn’t be able to fix said problem. As the HEC points out on their site,

The situation in Flint demonstrates the gaps that exist in federal regulation that Indiana could address if we do not adopt HB 1082 as law: The bill’s author, Representative Wolkins, correctly pointed out that there were violations of federal drinking water regulations in Flint. However, close examination of those regulations brings to light gaps that could allow the Flint situation to happen again. For example, under federal regulation, drinking water systems can continue to deliver lead-tainted water to households and businesses for up to 24 months while a variety of fixes are attempted.
If you care about the local farm-to-fork movement, then you’ll care about SB 71, which would prevent local small-scale poultry farmers from selling their products to local food establishments. A North Manchester farm family has started a change.org petition about this bill.

Recycling has been a hot issue in Indianapolis for the past year or more, and now there are two bills that could potentially have a negative affect on recycling statewide: SB 88 and SB 366 would seriously limit solid waste management districts in their ability to fund and implement recycling initiatives in their counties. The HEC again notes the threat to local drinking water that SB 366 could present:

[T]his bill would allow county commissioners, through a simple vote, to dissolve a community’s Solid Waste Management District, which is on the frontline of protecting a community’s drinking water supplies from household hazardous waste, construction/demolition/disaster debris, and stormwater.

HB 1053, “Regulation of packaging materials,” basically outlaws all bans or taxes on packaging materials, disposable or other. In other words, if this bill passes, if an Indiana city decides they want to reduce waste by banning plastic bags, THEY COULDN’T! Or if our state wanted to adopt a bottle deposit bill, WE COULDN’T!

Now some good news:

Legislation to protect 10 percent of our state forests from logging has been introduced. Indiana Forest Alliance — indianaforestalliance.org — does an excellent job at summarizing the bills and offering ways to take action.

The Fresh Food Initiative, SB 15, is a positive bill that would bring fresh produce and unprocessed foods to food deserts – and could potentially bolster the local food movement.

There are also good things happening regarding transit, including SB 128, which would bring additional funding to Monroe County for transit projects.

If you’re interested in making an impact at the statehouse, CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS! If there is an issue, environmental or other, that you are passionate about, be sure to let your elected officials know how you feel. You can find your legislators’ names and contact info at iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/.

This is a short session (ends March 14), but that doesn’t mean it can’t have very impactful consequences. Stay engaged and be sure your voice is heard personally and thoughtfully!

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