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Bills responding to Tippecanoe Water pipeline likely dead

State Senator Spencer Deery said LEAP pipeline legislation is likely dead (FILE PHOTO: IPB News/Lauren Chapman)
State Senator Spencer Deery said LEAP pipeline legislation is likely dead (FILE PHOTO: IPB News/Lauren Chapman)

Bills to protect citizens against large, potentially harmful water withdrawals are likely dead.

The legislation aimed to create a permitting process for withdrawals as the state considered using a pipeline to move water from Tippecanoe County to an industrial project in Lebanon.

Tippecanoe County officials passed an ordinance last year to block the state’s proposed pipeline - saying they hoped bills to put guardrails in place would pass during the 2024 legislative session.

Republican Senator Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) introduced one of those bills. He said the legislation is unlikely to get a hearing.

“The argument is that we can afford to wait and get more information and then decide what is going to be needed,” Deery said. “That’s not particularly satisfying to many if not most in our community.”

Governor Eric Holcomb met with regional officials last year and told them the pipeline project would not move forward without a completed water study and legislative approval.

Deery said that pause likely stayed the legislature's hand on his legislation.

“I think in some ways we were the victim of our own success,” he said.

Deery said the language of his bill could still be inserted into other legislation. He pointed to another bill that creates oversight of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation as one that could see the language added.

The IEDC has overseen much of the pipeline and Lebanon industrial projects. The quasi-governmental agency came under scrutiny during a budget hearing last year with lawmakers saying they wanted more oversight of the corporation.

Deery is a co-sponsor of a bill that would give two members of the general assembly advisory roles on the IEDC’s board - among other measures aimed at creating accountability for the corporation.

“I think IEDC has grown beyond the point where it needs some more accountability and more oversight to make sure the amount of money and the amount of power it is being given is used wisely,” he said.

Elsewhere, Gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden also registered his disappointment that the water-permitting bills did not get a hearing. In a statement, he said the pipeline project “deserves legislative scrutiny that sadly it now won’t get.”