The Issues

Environmental Health & Justice

As a statewide organization, we focus on environmental health challenges that are prevalent across the state; two of the most significant ones are coal ash and factory farm waste. We are keen to help empower local communities who have felt marginalized, over the decades, by their elected, civic, and business leaders with regard to environmental issues; our Environmental Justice Initiative, at the present time, is focused on Lake County and Marion County. HEC seeks to reduce toxic exposures, and has made meaningful contributions to reduce harm, in particular, from Outdoor Wood Boiler smoke. We have recently received inquiries regarding our position on the proposed, controversial coal-to-diesel plant in Dale, IN.

Toxic Exposure Reduction

Hoosiers can be exposed to toxins in their air, water, soil, or from products.

Are you looking for a reference to help you determine who to contact regarding an issue with toxic pollution you or your community is experiencing? Please check into this report from the Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health: Investigating Environmental Contamination: A Guide for Communities. This report provides technical assistance, telephone consultations, and training by experts on environmental health issues.

HEC is currently working with a group in Logansport to stop a steel waste processing facility from going in three miles from their downtown. We were successful in blocking the same company from building a facility in Muncie in 2019.

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Environmental Justice

The EPA defines “Environmental Justice” as:

“The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.”

Despite EPA’s goal, some Hoosier communities bear a much heavier pollution burden than others and those inequalities tend to track with economic and racial inequities, and are at the heart of the concept of “environmental injustice.”

 

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Coal Ash Solutions

Coal ash is the material left after burning coal.

It contains heavy metals that contaminate water. Indiana has been producing millions of tons of coal ash per year for decades, much of which is stored in the floodplains of rivers or Lake Michigan.

EPA Takes Important Steps to Reduce Coal Ash Pollution

On January 11, 2022, the EPA released documents that clarify important portions of the federal coal ash rule (the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule or CCR Rule).  These clarifications will put an end to the attempts we have seen in Indiana to dodge the rule by misinterpreting it. The net result of EPA’s clarifications will be less coal ash pollution in Indiana.

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Coal Ash in the 2022 Legislative Session

While EPA has clarified the coal ash requirements on the federal side, a bipartisan group of Indiana legislators are working to require safe coal ash disposal in state law. They have introduced bills in both the Indiana House and Senate for the 2022 legislative session. Passage of these bills will ensure continued safe disposal in Indiana even if future administrations in Washington DC attempt to change the federal coal ash rule. See HEC’s Bill Watch 2022 page for the latest.

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2020 Report Shows Indiana Lags Far Behind in Coal Ash Cleanup

In 2014 the Hoosier Environmental Council published Our Waters at Risk about the impact of coal ash on Indiana’s water resources. In the years that followed, a good deal more information became public. Read HEC’s 2020 report, which updates what is known about coal ash and Indiana’s water resources.

Download executive summary of Our Waters at Risk Park 2

The Hoosier Environmental Council’s work on coal ash receives generous support from the Energy Foundation, the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, the McKinney Family Foundation, and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

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Food System Reform

Our food system is harming Hoosiers and our environment.

Within the last few decades, the United States went from raising livestock on traditional farms owned by farm families, to “producing” livestock in highly mechanized, industrial operations controlled by a handful of giant corporations. Indiana is home to nearly 2,000 of these industrial-scale animal factories known as concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs,”) or factory farms. A CAFO warehouses at least 1,000 cattle, 2,500 swine, or 100,000 fowl in a confined space. Today, more than 85% of all livestock “produced” in Indiana come from factory farms.

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