Groups Unite Against Bill that Would Weaken Environmental Regulations

A number of organizations have united in the battle against legislation that they feel would weaken the state’s ability to protect the health and safety of Hoosiers. House Bill 1143 would require that Indiana’s environmental rules and standards could not surpass federal environmental rules and standards.

Former legal counsel to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Rosemary Spalding is among those concerned.

“It just totally hamstrings our environmental rules board in terms of giving them the flexibility they need to do appropriate rules for what’s in the best interest of Indiana citizens,” Spalding said.

Sixteen Indiana-based groups announced opposition to the bill on Wednesday, including the Indiana State Medical Association, League of Women Voters of Indiana, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light and Kids’ Environment. The bill has been approved by the Indiana House and could be heard by a Senate committee as early as Monday.

Pastor Dennis Shock, a board member of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, said protecting the air, water and soil is a matter of policy and faith.

“As a pastor and person of faith, I believe we need to take care of the earth in the best way possible, and this bill is not doing that,” Shock said. “It allows the state to get by on as little as possible in taking care of our state and its environment.”

Hoosier Environmental Council Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda said state leaders need to keep the best interest of the people in mind, in light of recent environmental tragedies in West Virginia and North Carolina.

“The flip side of being a very industrialized state and being a very agriculturally intensive state is that those things can pose risks to the environment and to public health, and we need to give our state policymakers as many tools as we can, so they can head off tragedies that we’ve seen in other places,” Kharbanda said.

House Bill 1143 was authored by Rep. David Wolkins (R-Warsaw), who said federal regulations are strong and the legislation is needed to prevent negative economic repercussions if future Indiana environmental leaders call for tests or standards the state cannot afford.