In February, we posted on our blog about a bill approved by the Indiana House that would prevent state regulatory agencies from passing environmental laws tougher than those enforced by the federal government. The controversial bill was sent to the Senate for consideration by a 64-33 House vote. In light of justified objections, the bill has now undergone significant edits.
Despite obvious support from industry groups, the bill was seriously opposed by environmental and public health groups—for good reason. Although the bill would have potentially saved businesses money by limiting possible expenses for environmental compliance and cleanup, it would have effectively stripped Indiana’s regulatory agencies of the power to accurately address our state’s unique environmental concerns. Considering Indiana has been ranked one of the most polluted states in the country, a bill limiting our state’s environmental regulation could have devastating effects.
The language that would have restricted state environmental regulators from imposing laws harsher than the federal standard has been removed from the bill. Instead, the bill now simply requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to inform the legislature each year on new rules it’s developing and enacting.
Environmental advocates who expressed concern over the initial wording of the bill seem pleased with the new revisions. Although the bill will still allow for additional scrutiny of regulatory bodies by the legislature, it is no longer limiting their ability to protect Indiana from environmental harm. In the initially-approved version of the bill, Indiana would have been restricted to the oftentimes vague federal guidelines for states, which have not always gone far enough in protecting Indiana from serious environmental issues—such as livestock farm manure pits.
While this restrictive wording has currently been removed from the bill, that doesn’t mean it won’t be brought up again in the future. It’s important that environmental advocates remain aware of legislation being pushed by the House to limit environmental regulation, and it’s even more important to speak up when such bills are proposed. The rewriting of this latest bill proves how much of an impact our voices can have.