GUEST COMMENTARY: Legislators will study environmental rules bill

2014-02-26T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Legislators will study environmental rules billBy Ed Charbonneau nwitimes.com
February 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Recently, The Times Editorial Board came out in opposition to House Bill 1143, which is more commonly known as the “no more stringent than” environmental bill. This proposed legislation would prohibit the Indiana Environmental Rules Board from adopting a rule or standard that is more stringent than the corresponding regulation or standard established under federal law.

HB 1143, authored by state Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, is an idea he’s proposed for at least a decade. The bill passed the full House of Representatives last month by a 68-28 vote and was sent to the Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs, which I chair, for consideration.

Many Hoosiers concerned with the environment and opposed to the bill are quick to point out that Beverly Gard, former senator and longtime chair of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee, never gave Wolkins’ proposal a committee hearing.

As the current Senate Environmental Affairs chair, it is my responsibility to advocate for a fair and full discussion. Committee members — myself included — believed this debate was worth having because environmental regulations affect all Hoosiers and Indiana employers. During the committee hearing, we engaged in a robust policy discussion between supporters and opponents of the legislation.

Supporters believe EPA regulatory standards are plenty strict and argue the bill safeguards against any additional economic repercussions for Indiana. They testified this legislation would prevent future members of the Environmental Rules Board from calling for tests or standards Indiana cannot afford.

Opponents argue the proposal ignores Indiana’s unique environmental concerns that require policies specific to the Hoosier State. They say guidelines from the EPA are considered a minimal baseline that states can make more stringent as lawmakers and rulemakers consider Indiana’s specific needs. Challengers conclude Indiana’s system, including the role of our Environmental Rules Board, already works well, so this legislation would create more harm and confusion.

After two hours of carefully listening to testimony on both sides of the issue, it was evident there are misconceptions about the proposed legislation and its impact on stakeholders.

Committee members were not prepared to vote on HB 1143 because it would require a significant policy shift in Indiana, but I commit to study the issue during the summer and fall months. Lawmakers may reconsider the issue and take the time to educate both the public and fellow legislators next year during a longer session.

As always, I invite constituents to share their thoughts and potential solutions with me by emailing s5@in.gov or by calling (800) 382-9467.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, represents the 5th District. The opinions are the writer's.

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