No More Stringent Than
UPDATE: Governor Pence, for the first time in his tenure as Governor, vetoed an anti-environmental bill. This bill, HB 1082 — the most damaging of all anti-environmental legislation introduced this session — would have made it much more difficult for Indiana’s taxpayer-funded environmental experts to do their job. Our appreciation for the 20 statewide and regional organizations that stood united in opposing this bill. Thank you for being an active citizen and for bettering our state this last legislative session!
Indiana’s air and water quality has, in general, improved over time, but we can’t get complacent. We only need to be reminded by what happened in our country in the last few years: the worst in-land oil spill in US history (the Michigan tar sands spill of 2010), the pollution of drinking water for 300,000 Americans due to a chemical storage leak (in West Virginia during 2014), and the largest ever pollution spill on US soil – the tragic billion gallon coal ash contamination of the Emory River in Tennessee in 2008.
HB 1082 “The No More Stringent than Bill”: A Major Threat to Indiana Environmental Protection
In a time when our country still faces major environmental risks, HB 1082 moves Indiana in a backwards direction. It would make it illegal for Indiana’s Executive Branch to pass policies that are tighter for public health than what the U.S. EPA does, for those situations where the EPA has set standards. HB 1082 is also called the “No More Stringent Than Bill”.
Why is HB 1082 a Really Big Problem?
Some people have the view that EPA is too aggressive and tries to tackle every environmental problem out there. While the EPA has acted decisively to protect our air quality, there are many areas where the EPA has been, candidly, weak. The EPA has not adequately protected the public from such serious environmental problems as pollution from fracking, factory farm manure pits, and outdoor wood boilers.
But since the EPA has not adequately acted to address those problems above, HB 1082 would bar Indiana’s environmental agency, IDEM, from doing anything stronger to protect the public health.
Big Problems with the Original, House-Filed HB 1082
1. Increases Risks to Public Health
By stripping away the ability of Indiana’s environmental agency (IDEM) to deal with issues where the EPA has acted inadequately, it makes Indiana vulnerable to not serving its citizens in a timely manner, since the legislature is out of session 75% of the year.
2. Could Paralyze Indiana’s Environmental Agency from Implementing State Plans
Indiana is granted considerable responsibility by the US Environmental Protection Agency to implement air and water quality plans as well as clean-up programs. The language of HB 1082 could paralyze IDEM in implementing such plans & programs — for fear that the agency would be sued.
3. Ignores Existing Strong Safeguards against Regulatory Abuse
Indiana’s existing laws already ensure that Indiana does not act irresponsibly in enacting new environmental protection safeguards. These existing laws prevent Indiana regulations from hurting the Indiana economy; read our legislative memo describing existing checks and balances in Indiana law that make this bill unnecessary. The broader safeguard to Indiana’s economy is that the Indiana legislature can always repeal or modify regulations that the legislature thinks are unhealthy for Indiana’s economy.
4. It Weakens State’s Rights
Hoosiers pride themselves on making their own decisions. HB 1082 would put Indiana in the odd and unusual situation where Indiana would be voluntarily giving up the ability to keep decisions in the hands of the state and likely put more power in the hands of federal government.
A Comment on the Flint Crisis and HB 1082
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.
Update, February 26, 2016
Despite immense opposition by health, medical, environmental, faith, and consumer groups, the anti-environmental HB 1082 passed 64-33 in the Indiana House on February 2nd. On February 22, 2016, the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee stripped out the original, intensely controversial language, and replaced it with reporting requirements; this version of the bill is one that HEC praised, as reflecting prudence. The bill was then amended again on February 25th; HEC opposed this version of the bill, as seen in our memo here.
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