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Natural Resources: A Greening of the Statehouse Review

Sarah R. Williams | Published on 12/1/2022

Highlights from the Hoosier Environmental
Council’s 2022 Greening the Statehouse

by Sarah R. Williams, LWV Muncie-Delaware County Natural Resources Committee Chair

          The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) hosted its annual Greening the Statehouse event on October 15, at the IMMI Conference Center in Westfield, Indiana. Muncie-Delaware County LWV members in attendance included Sarah Williams. State LWV members present were Liz Solberg and Kristina Lindborg.

HEC Board President, Tom Barrett, provided opening remarks. The theme of this year’s Greening the Statehouse (GTS) was “Clean Water for Indiana,” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Presentations, speakers, and art displays for the day examined the history of the Clean Water Act and how future policy will impact the health of our waterways.

At the conference, Mr. Barrett announced a new executive director for HEC, Sam Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter discussed his previous twenty years of experience running the non-profit Global Gifts, as well as the importance of advocating for “thoughtful and strong environmental policy” in his new role as HEC’s executive director.

Mr. Carpenter’s remarks segued into the morning presentation, “50 years of Pollution and the Challenges Remaining,” by speaker Debra Shore. Ms. Shore is the Region 5 Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appointed by President Biden. As Region 5 Director, she oversees six state regions (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and 35 tribal nations. Ms. Shore began her presentation by stating the importance of the Hoosier Environmental Council as the eyes and ears of Indiana’s environmentally concerned. She then discussed what progress has been made in the region since the EPA was enacted by President Richard Nixon in 1970, followed by the Clean Water Act being passed into law in 1972. Ms. Shore highlighted the partnerships between the EPA and state agencies, such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). Shared goals include monitoring for Clean Water Act non-compliance, and halving the rate of non-compliance (goal of 10% or less non-compliance). A recent success emphasized by Ms. Shore was a 45% reduction in the amount of untreated sewage going back into waterways as a result of a partnership between Region 5 and IDEM from 2008-2019. Ms. Shore ended her presentation discussing future work by Region 5 that includes strengthening pollution monitoring efforts and enforcement in communities disproportionately affected by hazardous waste.

A panel discussion, “Stories of Progress from Major Indiana Waterways” followed Debra Shore’s presentation. Panelists included speakers representing Lake Michigan, and the Wabash, White, and Ohio rivers. Each panelist discussed the heavy pollution that historically affected waterways, including sewage, heavy metals, and farm-related runoff. Speaker Rick Conrad, Director of the Muncie Bureau of Water Quality, discussed Muncie’s industrial past and the damaging effects on the White River. Water Committee Chair for the Sierra Club, Hank Graddy, discussed historical attitudes such as “dilution is the solution” toward sewer runoff that affected waterways such as the Ohio River. Panelists Kimmie Gordon (Founder of Brown Faces Green Spaces) and Amy Krzton-Presson (Watershed Coordinator, Wabash River Enhancement Corporation) discussed how regulations enacted through the Clean Water Act, as well as grants to reduce non-point source pollution, have improved the health of our waterways. Ms. Gordon also noted the significance of increased advocacy on the part of League of Women Voters for environmental causes.

The afternoon conference sessions included the HEC Annual Awards and a panel discussion. Eleven Award categories were announced, including a Distinguished Service Award for Delaware County’s Canoe Country in Daleville, Indiana. Canoe Country hosts over 4,000 paddlers a year, including float trips to get legislators out on the White River.

The panel discussion that followed was entitled, “Indiana Environmental Policy in the 2022 Election and the 2023 Legislative Session.” Panelists included State Representative Carey Hamilton, State Senator Fady Qaddoura, and HEC’s Dr. Indra Frank (Environmental Health and Water Policy Director) and Tim Maloney (Senior Policy Director). Representative Hamilton and Senator Qaddoura both emphasized the importance of good environmental policy that also benefits manufacturers and job retention, such as community solar investments, electric vehicle battery manufacturing, and allowances for hydropower.

Mr. Maloney discussed the top legislative priorities for the HEC, including opposing coal bailout bills, supporting solar, and preventing rollback of renewable sources of energy.

Dr. Indra Frank reported the HEC is monitoring the Indiana Flood Control Act, and making sure too many exemptions aren’t being written to undermine the law. She also discussed HEC advocating for property tax breaks for the preservation of even small wetlands. Dr. Frank noted her greatest concern for the upcoming year are blanket suppressive effects on environmental laws, such as the “no more stringent than” policies.

Due to the Hoosier Environmental Council’s reputation of being meticulous with research and facts, the League of Women Voters of Indiana will continue to follow the recommendations put forth by the HEC to support or oppose bills that affect natural resources and the environment. 

Many thanks go out to the Hoosier Environmental Council for hosting this important event and to the Muncie-Delaware County League of Women Voters for their environmental advocacy and supporting my attendance on behalf of LWV.