Passing a law saying Indiana can't enact any environmental laws more stringent than the federal guidelines would be a mistake.
But that's what House Bill 1143, sponsored by Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, proposes.
The bill is now before the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso.
Wolkins' legislation runs counter to the state's rights philosophy so many of his fellow Republicans espouse. HB 1143 says, "A rule or standard adopted by the board (Indiana Environmental Rules Board) may not be more stringent than the corresponding regulation or standard established under federal law."
Environmentalists have expressed their concern about this legislation.
"If it becomes law it will have huge ramifications for Northwest Indiana," said Marianne Holland, of the Hoosier Environmental Council. "There are a disproportionate number of environmental problems that have received very minimal and weak standards from the federal government."
An obvious problem would be where federal rules are deemed too lax.
But there's also the problem of Indiana wanting to act before the feds on a specific case. The failed trash-to-ethanol proposal is a good example. If that ill-advised plan had gone forward, how could Indiana regulators draft rules for that plant when no federal guidelines exist?
Charbonneau's predecessor as committee chair, former state Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, let prior versions of this bill die without a hearing. Charbonneau said the committee will hold a hearing on HB 1143 at 8 a.m. region time Monday.
"It would be a huge policy shift for the state of Indiana, so it's something I'm not taking lightly," Charbonneau said. "I want to give it considerable thought."
Senators of Charbonneau's committee should give HB 1143 the thought Charbonneau wants — and then kill it. This sets a bad precedent for Indiana.
Indiana shouldn't be hamstrung when it comes to environmental regulations.