There were a lot of surprises on the energy and environment front in this 2019 legislative session. If you haven't been keeping up, here's what you need to know:
What's Now A Law:
- Loans to help communities update or replace aging water infrastructure
- A task force to look into state stormwater issues
- Utilities don't have to be as specific about charges in a process that helps utilities recover the costs of certain improvement projects from ratepayers more quickly
- The Indiana State Department of Health will encourage radon testing in schools
What's Awaiting Gov. Eric Holcomb's Signature:
- Some protestors who threaten "critical infrastructure" will face harsher penalties
- Local governments can't make erosion control laws for construction sites that are stricter than state ones, except on sites less than an acre
- A bill that both establishes an energy task force and lets the Environmental Rules Board change IDEM permit fees. The task force will look into Indiana’s energy transition and come up with an energy plan. Companies pay for a permit to discharge pollution into the air and water. Because the fees were set in statute, they haven’t been changed for several decades. This would allow the Environmental Rules Board to increase those fees if necessary.
- A pilot program that would allow carbon dioxide storage underground at a site in Terre Haute. The intent is to study CO2 storage.
Update: This was amended so that the pilot project operator has to follow the laws of eminent domain for gas storage and that the state can only take control of this underground storage facility after injection has happened for 12 years or it's stopped.
- The state will study farmland preservation.
Update: The original bill would have created a program to help farmers preserve their agricultural land and keep it from being developed into a subdivision or for an industrial use.
- An amendment that would have put a moratorium on new power plants and other large utility projects. It was backed by coal interests, including former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. The amendment was taken out of the bill in the state House.
- A bill to reinstate net metering. To be technical, this didn't fail — it didn't even get a hearing.
- A bill that would have prohibited homeowners' associations from banning solar panels on homes
- Two amendments proposed by the Hoosier Environmental Council. One that would have increased funding to hire more people to oversee drinking water protections and another that would have preserved public lands in the state.
- Two bills clarifying what recreation is allowed on Lake Michigan beaches and what counts as the "shoreline."
There are several other bills dealing with energy and the environment that never got a hearing. See all of the bills that were considered this session, those that are still active are in blue.
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.