Photograph by Steven Higgs

HEC Executive Director Jesse Kharabanda says Indiana legislators failed to pass a renewable energy standard that would have required Indiana receive at least 15 percent of its energy from renewable or energy-efficient resources by 2025. The RES bill died in conference committee after it passed the Indiana House and Senate by large margins.

News Release
Hoosier Environmental Council

The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) weighed in on the efforts to improve Indiana's environment -- and economy -- during the 2009 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Throughout this year's legislative session, HEC advocated for the passage of the Green Jobs Development Act, as well as improving the quality of life in communities with industrial-scale hog and dairy operations (CAFOs) and increasing options for public transit in communities throughout the state.

Two major elements of the Green Jobs Development Act, a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) and net metering, failed to make it out of the General Assembly late on April 29, in spite of both proposals overwhelmingly passing out of both chambers just weeks before. Senate Bill 420 would have established a statewide RES ensuring that Indiana would receive at least 15 percent of its energy from renewable or energy-efficient resources by 2025, and Senate Bill 300 would have opened up, in an unprecedented way, the electricity sector to customer self-generation of renewable energy.

"Indiana made major strides in moving towards the adoption of an RES this session," said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of HEC. "For the first time in four years, RES bills passed out of both chambers with bipartisan support. We're very disappointed that it was defeated this late in the process."

"Senate Bill 300 would have opened up, in an unprecedented way, the electricity sector to customer self-generation of renewable energy."

Kharabanda said negotiations failed between the lead conferees on SB 420, with the Senate Republican negotiator wanting to include nuclear in the definition of renewable energy, as well as a vast array of cost-recovery provisions to electric utilities that would have biased electric investment towards expensive power plants rather than energy efficiency.

"A sound, comprehensive renewable energy policy is imperative to Indiana succeeding in the emerging low-carbon American economy," he continued. "It's unfortunate that Indiana will fall behind our competitors, as we will continue to be the only state in the Midwest without an RES, and, ultimately, will lose out on new investment and new jobs."

The one element of the original Green Jobs Development Act that prevailed yesterday is an energy efficiency building code, which will update building codes to 2009 standards. This will help Indiana reduce future carbon emissions and future energy waste in commercial buildings, which overall consume more than 70 percent of the nation's electricity.

In addition to the Green Jobs Development Act, HEC focused its efforts on the following legislative initiatives, which included:

Creating a healthier, more sustainable food system in Indiana: HEC helped secure the passage of legislation requiring the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to take into account past environmental-damaging behavior on the part of industrial-scale hog and dairy operators seeking to expand in Indiana. HEC was disappointed by the passage, however, of a bill that may significantly weaken the ability of rural communities to regulate the disposal of animal waste, a policy that HEC strenuously tried to improve throughout the session.

Realizing a 21st transportation system: In partnership with the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Transportation Association, the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority, Health by Design, Indiana Citizens' Alliance for Transit, and others, a sound public transit funding bill passed out of the Indiana House. This bill unfortunately was denied a hearing in the Senate, hampered by persistent myths about the costs and benefits of public transportation.

Protecting Indiana's rivers: In coordination with a coalition of environmental groups, the HEC was successful in fighting off attempts to weaken laws protecting our rivers and streams, most notably in HB 1162.

"Despite some legislative victories this session, we have much more to do in the years ahead," Kharbanda said. "According to the U.S. EPA, Indiana ranks third in the nation in overall toxic emissions. We must improve our environment if we are to bring more green jobs, retain and attract top talent to Indiana, and protect our kids from harmful air and water pollutants. That's why we look forward to returning to the State House both during the special session and in 2010. With stronger partnerships and a commitment to building relationships with legislators across party lines, we will continue to realize the vision of a better, cleaner environment that will benefit all Hoosiers."

An unprecedented coalition of businesses, labor unions, public health organizations, environmental and consumer advocacy groups, and private citizens from across Indiana lent their support to the HEC's legislative initiatives. Key supporters for different elements of this agenda included: Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend); Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson); Rep. Win Moses (D-Fort Wayne); Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington); Rep. Dave Cheatham (D-North Vernon); Rep. Dale Grubb (D-Covington); Rep. Phil Pflum (D-Milton); Rep. Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville); Rep. Wes Culver (R-Goshen); Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso); Rep. Cleo Duncan (R-Greensburg); Sen. Sue Errington (D-Muncie); Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield); Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson); Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis); Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes); Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso).

To learn more about HEC and the initiatives it supports, please visit www.hecweb.org.

CONTACTS:
Jesse Kharbanda, executive director, 317.979.3236
Tim Maloney, senior policy director, 812.369.8677