A controversial bill that would dissolve protections for the state’s wetlands passed in the Senate on Monday.
The author of the bill, Sen. Chris Garten (R-Charlestown), says the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has unfairly targeted Hoosier farmers, instructing employees to find new wetlands.
“We’re talking about a farmer who has a broken drain tile, who’s farmed a multigenerational farm his entire life, and he’s now being told he can’t do anything there. He can’t even replace the drain tile," he said.
Garten said farmers also fear retaliation from the agency. But senators who oppose the bill question the motives behind dissolving the entire program.
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If the bill becomes law, it would also dismiss pending lawsuits. Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), who is also an attorney, called the bill unethical and said it will only lead to more litigation in the future.
“We are the legislature. We are not administrative law judges. We are not judicial officers. This is a direct violation of the separation of powers," he said.
Federally regulated wetlands would still be protected under the bill. However, because of changes to the Waters of the United States rule two years ago, now the majority of wetlands in Indiana aren’t protected by that law.
The bill passed by a vote of 29 to 19. It now moves to the House for consideration.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.