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Indiana lawmakers amend environment bills as deadlines near

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Dozens of amendments to bills affecting Indiana environmental policy have sparked debate among lawmakers as the Legislature enters its final stretch of the session.

Posted: Apr 4, 2021 6:14 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2021 8:52 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dozens of amendments to bills affecting Indiana environmental policy have sparked debate among lawmakers as the Legislature enters its final stretch of the session.

The proposed changes arrive as members of the General Assembly decide whether the state should adopt greener initiatives or scale back current policy protecting water, energy and other resources.

One bill under consideration by the full House would create a state-sponsored carbon market in Indiana that allows companies looking to offset their carbon footprint to pay for greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

While some companies already pay to reduce emissions in one place — to make up for emissions they create elsewhere — Indiana lacks a formal market, meaning money paid for those offsets is often sent out of state or overseas.

The voluntary program established by the Senate bill would bring the two sides of these transactions together, instead giving Hoosier farmers and forest owners an extra source of income for practices that capture and store carbon.

Large corporations with operations in Indiana that have pledged to become carbon neutral include Amazon, FedEx and Nestlé.

Although the plan has earned broad support, Democrats and environmental advocates are pushing back against an amendment approved by the House natural resources committee last week that provides immunity to an Indiana company slated to begin the nation’s largest carbon dioxide storage project in 2023.

The amendment prevents Wabash Valley Resources LLC, which operates a hydrogen production facility in Terre Haute, from being sued if carbon emissions it injects underground move to neighboring properties where they are not supposed to go.

Landowners could not bring legal action against the company for perceived risks and would only be able to claim damages if they prove the company caused physical harm to them or their property, according to the amended bill.

Nalin Grupta, a partner for Wabash Valley Resources, maintained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “makes us go through one of the most stringent permitting processes” and said the carbon dioxide would be stored so far underground that it shouldn’t affect those living nearby: “How many people would sue an airplane that flies over your head 8,000 feet?”

Others expressed concern that the technology could pollute drinking water and cause earthquakes.

“We have no idea yet about the implications of the long-term storage of CO2 underground. We are talking about super critical highly pressurized carbon dioxide that is injected into rock formations where there is brine and gases and other materials,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, who opposed the amendment. “This is something we just don’t know enough about.”

Democratic Rep. Ryan Dvorak of South Bend added that the state doesn’t waive liability for other industrial businesses like steel mills and car manufacturers.

“If an enterprise needs to request some sort of immunity in order to conduct business in the state, that should always be a big red flag,” he said.

Senators also made drastic changes to a controversial renewable energy bill meant to set standards for wind and solar projects after the plan prompted outcry from local officials over the need for more community authority.

The original bill established parameters for how close wind and solar projects can be to other properties, overriding municipal ordinances that restrict or prohibit wind power.

Amendments approved Thursday by the Senate Utilities, however, allow county and local governments to maintain more restrictive ordinances and provide the option for local units to approve wind projects. The new provisions also include monetary incentives for counties to adopt more restrictive ordinances on their own.

“We’re truly keeping everything in this process at the local control level,” said Sen. Mark Messmer, a Republican from Jasper. “We want to be looking farther into the future, looking at the transition that’s coming from coal fuels to renewable assets. And we want to set the parameters that will help in the long run.”

The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Among the session’s most contested environmental bills is another seeking to remove protection for Indiana’s already diminished wetlands. If passed, the measure would repeal a 2003 law requiring the Indiana Department of Environmental Management permit activity in a state-regulated wetland and end enforcement proceedings against landowners allegedly violating current law.

Republican bill author Sen. Chris Garten and other sponsors said vague language in the law, over-enforcement by regulators and high mitigation fees that drive up housing costs prompted the drafting. They contend removal of state protections would help developers and grow the housing market.

State regulatory officials and environmental groups have continued to rally against the proposal, arguing that because wetlands provide water purification, habitat for wildlife and reduced flood risks, it’s critical they’re protected.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said lawmakers are crafting more amendments “that narrow the scope of the bill and addresses some concerns,” adding that the measure is expected to move to the full House after a committee vote Monday.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 775686

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1066871814
Lake572681031
Allen43500701
Hamilton37653427
St. Joseph37508568
Elkhart29882471
Tippecanoe23732232
Vanderburgh23634405
Porter19690327
Johnson19020394
Hendricks18271323
Clark13730199
Madison13719348
Vigo12949256
Monroe12691180
LaPorte12645225
Delaware11218198
Howard10832237
Kosciusko9851124
Hancock8855150
Bartholomew8343157
Warrick8216157
Floyd8128183
Grant7457181
Boone7289105
Wayne7273201
Morgan6988143
Marshall6376117
Dubois6327118
Cass6130112
Noble607391
Dearborn605878
Henry6001111
Jackson520977
Shelby514898
Lawrence5020128
Gibson471697
Montgomery464792
Clinton462755
DeKalb461485
Harrison459277
Huntington429082
Whitley421045
Steuben414561
Miami411573
Jasper403957
Knox397291
Putnam388762
Wabash373884
Adams358956
Ripley354571
Jefferson351487
White341854
Daviess3110100
Wells305981
Greene298485
Decatur294393
Posey288235
Fayette287764
Scott285458
LaGrange278873
Clay277649
Washington257638
Randolph248583
Jennings243349
Spencer240531
Fountain239050
Starke231559
Owen226759
Sullivan224143
Fulton210446
Jay204132
Carroll200623
Orange194456
Perry193139
Vermillion183444
Rush179127
Tipton174348
Franklin173935
Parke157816
Pike144034
Blackford138732
Pulaski124748
Newton124137
Benton111615
Brown106743
Crawford106716
Martin92715
Warren88715
Switzerland8568
Union73910
Ohio58711
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1132798

Reported Deaths: 20530
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1312911496
Cuyahoga1180592268
Hamilton830231263
Montgomery541901064
Summit491891018
Lucas43982835
Butler40324615
Stark34056941
Lorain26232511
Warren25125312
Mahoning22881614
Lake21602397
Clermont20592261
Delaware19295138
Licking16977227
Fairfield16959207
Trumbull16940493
Medina16019278
Greene15721254
Clark14439309
Portage13548219
Wood13411201
Allen12124245
Richland11870214
Miami11140229
Wayne9344228
Columbiana9282236
Muskingum9207137
Pickaway8796123
Marion8774140
Tuscarawas8756257
Erie8220166
Ashtabula7318180
Hancock7080135
Ross7070165
Geauga7032153
Scioto6887108
Belmont6261179
Lawrence6033106
Union595149
Jefferson5787162
Huron5678122
Sandusky5536130
Darke5476131
Seneca5391128
Washington5391111
Athens528660
Auglaize510587
Mercer492885
Shelby487798
Knox4678112
Ashland450198
Madison450066
Defiance444599
Fulton443275
Putnam4366104
Crawford4152112
Brown414163
Preble3988107
Logan396379
Clinton395667
Ottawa378281
Highland370768
Williams361878
Champaign351760
Guernsey334054
Jackson324954
Perry300550
Morrow298544
Fayette291350
Hardin280465
Henry279067
Coshocton275161
Holmes2735102
Van Wert254465
Gallia254150
Adams253658
Pike247137
Wyandot236557
Hocking224163
Carroll203349
Paulding181542
Meigs153940
Monroe139446
Noble138739
Harrison115738
Morgan112024
Vinton88217
Unassigned04
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The heat and humidity builds into the region as we head into the weekend.
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