The Hoosier Environmental Council, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, may have the least radical mission of any NUVO Cultural Vision awardee. “Our vision is for an Indiana where the health of the natural world and the human community is a central consideration in every decision made,” says Tim Maloney, the group’s owl-eyed executive director. HEC”s 25,000 members agree that clean air, land and water ought to go without saying.
But here in Indiana, source of the country”s third largest amount of pollutants, HEC’s agenda overflows. Working at every level from the neighborhood to the federal, with an arsenal of tactics ranging from door-to-door canvassing to lobbying on Capitol Hill, the staff, board, volunteers and members of the Hoosier Environmental Council carry the torch for common sense solutions to the state”s largely self-created environmental tribulations.
Protecting Indiana’s wild lands from development has been HEC”s greatest success. “That includes convincing the U.S. Forest Service to adopt our Citizens” Management Plan for the Hoosier National Forest; lobbying for the creation of an Indiana Heritage Land Trust; and preserving the Patoka River and Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuges,” Maloney says. HEC also works to handcuff corporate polluters like Ogden-Martin, an incinerator operator for the City of Indianapolis, finally fined for serious pollution violations, and the Indianapolis Water Company, stopped from dumping filter sediment into Fall Creek. In perhaps its most proactive victory, HEC worked with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to get the state to adopt nitrogen-oxide reduction standards for power plants, along with a clean energy incentive program.
Just when it seems state and local governments are writing free passes to business interests, here comes HEC to fight a strip mall, restore a watershed or battle power plant waste. “If we can work with government to accomplish something, then we will,” Maloney says. “But if they’re part of the problem, then we’ll work to change what they’re doing. For example, on the I-69 issue, government is part of the problem,” Maloney says, his soft voice rising a bit, referring to Gov. O’Bannon’s campaign to build a highway that would decimate 7,000 acres, cost taxpayers $1 billion and shave 13 minutes off the drive to Evansville. In opposition to I-69, HEC delivered 138,000 petition signatures to the governor.
“The problems occur when decisions are dictated by those with economic resources, and the effects are suffered by those without it,” Maloney says. In response, HEC works to raise public awareness about the problems and the solutions to Indiana’s environmental challenges by offering citizens technical and legal assistance to affect policy, and by inviting everyone to demand action from legislators. Not bad for an organization with a budget of only $600,000.
As HEC celebrates 20 years of vigilance with an Oct. 18 gala and visit from water activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tim Maloney muses, “Everything’s connected to everything else, as John Muir used to say. As we work on the defensive against destructive projects, those projects tell us where we need to be on a pro-active level. We’re about symptoms and causes. The bottom line goal is a sustainable future for Indiana’s inhabitants and natural resources.” What living, breathing Hoosier wouldn’t want the same? You can contact HEC at 685-8800.