Environmentalists expect new bills to touch region
By Matt Mikus email@example.com January 5, 2013 9:54PM
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:28AM
As the General Assembly starts its 2013 session Monday, environmentalists are eyeing proposed bills that could impact the region.
Vince Griffin, environmental director at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, presented issues lawmakers may tackle in the next four months at a meeting last week.
Griffin told the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Environmental Management Policy Committee some proposals may include consolidating state agencies covering water policy into one office within the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and developing new policies to provide water throughout the state.
With recent droughts, the state may face problems regarding fresh water sources in the future. Griffin noted that developments may face water shortages when the proposed Illiana Expressway is built, and finding water sources through the state will become increasingly difficult.
Areas of central and southern Indiana could face drought in coming years, he said causing a rush for access. Having a plan in place would allow for more development.
“We currently have no water plan for our future. We need to identify where it is, who needs it, and how to get it to who needs it in the future. If we get a drought like we did last year,” Griffin said, “it’s going to be a difficult time.”
Further, the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement among the eight states that border Great Lakes, will prohibit new diversions of water from the basin. That requires the state to consider where any new water sources will come from, he said.
Other issues the General Assembly may address include invasive species in the Great Lakes and whether to pool all funds dedicated too environmental efforts.
Griffin added that the Legislature may also look for tax legislation to require alternative energy cars — including compressed natural gas, propane, and electric vehicles — to pay into road taxes. A bottle bill similar to Michigan’s bottle deposit may come up, but he wasn’t sure whether it could gain traction.
Concentrated animal feeding legislation may also be considered this year, Griffin said.
Deep River study
A new study will be conducted by IDEM to determine pollution levels and baseline conditions for the Deep River water basin. The study — which will begin in April and last 12 months — will look at the chemicals, biology and nutrients of the watershed.
The Environmental Committee voted to hold onto a letter directed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking for dialogue about the Superfund site in the town of Pines. The EPA sent a letter Dec. 28 that addressed sampling pollutants and possible radiation from the Superfund site there. If the agency doesn’t address the citizens’ concerns, the committee plans to send the letter.
Members of the committee also criticized the recent indicators report by One Region for not utilizing a more diverse selection of data, saying a lot of progress made in recent years was left out.