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Climate bill dies in committee for a second year but student activists say they’ll keep coming back

Rahul Durai with Confront the Climate Crisis (FILE PHOTO: Ben Thorp/WBAA News).
Rahul Durai with Confront the Climate Crisis (FILE PHOTO: Ben Thorp/WBAA News).

For the second year in a row, climate legislation spearheaded by West Lafayette students has died in the state Senate.

But students behind the bill say they’re happy with its progress.

Last year, West Lafayette students in the group Confront the Climate Crisis pushed to get a climate solutions bill passed. It was introduced but never received a hearing.

This year, a similar bill got a hearing before it was shelved in the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee without a vote.

Rahul Durai is a West Lafayette high school student and a co-executive director of Confront the Climate Crisis. He said students knew the bill, which was flagged as “testimony only” on the committee agenda, wouldn’t get a vote going into the hearing.

But Durai said he believes advocates did a good job of testifying in favor of the legislation.

“I really think we captured the legislators’ attention and educated them about this issue,” he said. “Some of the ones who have been on the other side of this for the past couple of years seemed really interested.”

While tabling the bill, Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell) told students that passing legislation often takes multiple attempts.

“The idea is last year the bill was introduced and it didn’t get a hearing,” Durai said. “This year it gets a hearing, and maybe next year it moves even more forward.”

All of this has underlined for Durai how long it can take for legislation to move through the Statehouse.

“It illustrates how slow the legislative process is,” Durai said. “It’s supposed to be slow. It’s just frustrating when it is issues that are supposed to be urgent like climate change.”

But, Durai said, he can’t help but wish that the legislation got a vote.

“I’m still disappointed,” Durai added. “There really wasn’t a reason for it not to go out of committee.”

Durai said the group will work to reintroduce the bill next year.

When reached for comment, bill sponsor Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) said she is also disappointed that a bill with bipartisan support couldn’t move forward.

“The bill moved farther than ever thanks to the incredible work of young environmentalists who understand we’re operating on deadlines,” Yoder said. “We can’t compromise with it. We can only confront it.”