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Gov. Holcomb, legislative leaders meet with Tippecanoe County officials and commit to pipeline pause

Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh listens to public comment on the ordinance during last month’s meeting (FILE PHOTO: WBAA/Ben Thorp)
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh was among a group that met with Governor Eric Holcomb last week to discuss water issues. (FILE PHOTO: WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and legislative leadership met with Tippecanoe County officials last week to discuss state and local water issues.

Those officials said the governor committed to a pause on a proposed pipeline project until after a water study could be completed.

Regional policymakers have been raising concerns for months about the state’s proposal to pipe water from the county down to an industrial project in Lebanon.

Earlier this month, Tippecanoe County commissioners passed an ordinance blocking large water withdrawals. That move comes after months of growing opposition and a number of cities passing resolutions opposing the project.

Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said the governor’s visit meant a lot. He said the governor agreed not to move forward with the pipeline until a study could be completed and reviewed by a third party.

“And then also they committed to a pipeline project would have to go through a legislative process,” he said. “Meaning the funding for any project of its kind would have to go through the legislative process and then a bill would have to be signed off by the governor in order to get funding.”

In a statement, Holcomb said he hoped the visit demonstrated his “commitment to making sure we have the right statewide water policy in place to support the entire state’s economic growth and needs.”

The statement also said the meeting was an opportunity for an “unfiltered” conversation, which reiterated that data from an ongoing water study would drive any future decisions about the pipeline.

The governor’s statement did not outline any of the other commitments made to Tippecanoe County lawmakers.

According to Murtaugh, the meeting – which included Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) and Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) – was the first time all three state leaders had convened for a regional meeting of this kind.

“That does mean a lot to us,” Murtaugh said. “I think it’s a good sign. I think the commitments mean a lot for right now.”

When Murtaugh passed a ban on water withdrawals earlier this month, it was with the hope that the state legislature would pass some kind of water protections before the ban expired.

Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) represents part of the Tippecanoe County region and has been working on water legislation. He said the visit leaves him hopeful for the passage of a bill that would put guardrails in place around water withdrawals.

“I’m optimistic. I think this only makes me more optimistic that we’re going to get some basic parameters in there,” he said. “I don’t think that means we’re going to get everything we want. But the ability to lay some basic rules of the road to protect our area and other areas from projects that may proceed in an unwise fashion, or that doesn't make sense, is really a huge victory.”