Ellis, Lawrance Bring Chamber Advocacy Team to Full Strength

lawrence ellisThe many programs and benefits of Indiana Chamber membership include the state’s deepest and most effective group of issue experts. That team welcomes two talented additions.

Mark Lawrance returns to the Chamber in the new position of vice president of engagement and innovation policy. That includes advocacy work in the areas of technology, economic development and infrastructure.

Greg Ellis begins his work May 31 as vice president of energy and environmental policy. His variety of public and private sector experiences, including serving as an administrative law judge for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission since 2010, will prove valuable in his work on behalf of Chamber members.

Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar leads an experienced lobbying team that also includes: Caryl Auslander, education, workforce development and federal relations; Mike Ripley, health care policy and employment law; and Bill Waltz, taxation, public finance and local government reform.

“The hard work that takes place in the summer and fall – Chamber policy meetings, interim legislative panels, individual meetings with lawmakers and more – leads to effective General Assembly sessions,” Brinegar says. “Chamber members will be well represented by these issue experts and the support team we have around them.”

Chamber-Supported Clean Power Amicus Brief Filed in D.C.

36886821The Indiana Chamber joined 166 other state and local business associations from 40 different states in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. last Tuesday. Circuit explaining the devastating economic impact posed by the EPA’s carbon regulations.

The lawsuit, which will be considered by a federal appeals court this summer, involves EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” rules, which aim to reconfigure state electricity systems. It is expected to be a landmark case that could shape Indiana’s energy and economic
future.

In issuing these regulations, the EPA purports to have discovered the authority to regulate how states generate, transmit and use electricity, without any authority from Congress to do so.The coalition’s brief outlines major legal and economic concerns with the rule, arguing that EPA has trampled on the rights of states to determine their own energy mix and implement environmental standards in a manner tailed to their own circumstances.

The availability of affordable electricity is a key feature of keeping America competitive in a global economy.The brief explains that EPA’s challenged rule will pose significant harm to regional and local communities, particularly in economically challenged rural areas.

Affordable, reliable energy provides our members a critical advantage in today’s intensely competitive economy. If the courts uphold EPA’s rule, that advantage could be lost and American consumers will be left footing the bill, leading to adverse ripple effects throughout the economy, which will threaten individual businesses, countless jobs and entire communities.

By prematurely and unnecessarily forcing power plants to close, EPA’s regulation will result in higher costs for electricity and all the goods and services that depend on it, which means less money remaining for health care, food, education and other critical needs.

The Indiana Chamber’s brief echoes the call from nearly 160 challengers that have filed suit against EPA, including 27 states, and a host of business, labor and consumer groups.

A decision in the case is likely to be issued by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit later this year. From there, the challenge is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court, which has ordered EPA to halt all implementation and enforcement actions on the rule until it has the opportunity to consider the case.

EPA Releases New Ozone Limits

Although our air, land and water are cleaner than arguably before the Industrial Revolution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month announced its new restrictive ground-level ozone standard: 70 parts per billion (ppb). It could have been set even lower – at 65 or even 60 – which would have been more restrictive and affected a large portion of the Indiana population.

At 70 ppb, we believe that all Indiana counties will meet the standard and thus be in “attainment.” However, there is a monitor in Wisconsin that will trip the Chicago area into nonattainment and include the Indiana counties of Lake and Porter. The consequence of “nonattainment” means that there can be no business expansion or new business unless that expanded or new business does not add any additional components to the area’s ozone. Essentially, it would stop any expansion, growth or new business. Additionally, Clark and Floyd counties will likewise be pulled into the Louisville nonattainment status and there is an outside chance that a county or two near Cincinnati may be affected.

Indiana will likely meet this new 70 ppb standard because power plants have shut down or made the very expensive changes necessary to shift over to natural gas as a result of the many EPA requirements designed to eliminate coal The Indiana Chamber has strongly opposed these anti-coal provisions and will continue to do so because, despite diversification efforts, coal remains Indiana’s primary energy source.

Taking the Digital Age Into New – and Very Green – Territory

36886821What does the world’s greenest office building look like? You’re about to find out.
The Edge (enticing moniker) towers over onlookers in Amsterdam and is home to 2,500 Deloitte employees … who don’t have desks.

Let me back up. There are desks, but employees aren’t assigned one of their very own. The space they occupy each day is based upon their schedule. They may get cracking on projects in the concentration room, along the sun-infused balcony, in the atrium – it’s called “hot desking.”

Living on The Edge (or at least working there) is all about innovation. Connectivity and going green are king. A smartphone app allows employees to control lighting and climate preferences at their workstations. Rainwater is collected for flushing toilets and irrigating gardens. A security robot stands guard. And that’s just the beginning.

Check out this short video and share your input: Brilliant work environment or too much of a good thing?

Ag Strength – By the Numbers

agThere’s no doubting the continued strength of Indiana’s agricultural industry (see the state fact sheet). We’ve told the stories often in BizVoice magazine – and will do so in the upcoming July-August issue (with a look at the prominence of ag businesses in Kosciusko County).

But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Indiana did not rank in the top three exporters by state of various products. There are some interesting states and dollar figures included (selected examples):

  • Soybeans: Illinois ($3.1 billion), Iowa ($2.7 billion) and Minnesota ($1.8 billion)
  • Corn: The same three states as soybeans, with Iowa leading the way at $1.1 billion
  • Wheat: Kansas ($1.5 billion), North Dakota and Montana
  • Pork: Iowa ($2 billion), North Carolina and Minnesota
  • Beef: Nebraska ($946 million), Texas and Kansas
  • Dairy; California ($1.2 billion), Wisconsin and New York
  • Poultry: Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas
  • Fresh fruit: California ($2.5 billion), Florida ($3.2 billion) and Washington

Little Steps Can Lead to Big Energy Savings

Business direction background with two people

This column was also posted on Inside INdiana Business.

Indiana possesses a number of advantages in its business climate. One of those traditional benefits has been energy that is adequate, reliable and affordable.

The inexpensive part of that equation has come into question lately. Industrial energy rates that were once among the five lowest in the country are now around the middle of the pack. Federal regulations – ones that often impact Indiana to a greater degree due to its dependence on coal – lead the way as a major cause for the increase.

All companies, not just heavy energy users, can more closely evaluate their usage and likely lower their costs. That subject is the theme of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Connect and Collaborate series – luncheons around the state this summer for Chamber members.

Here is some of the information being shared in the form of 10 energy-saving tips:

  1. Know your costs: Just as we hopefully do or should be doing at home, examine your electric power bill. You have to realize the source of your largest energy costs to be able to potentially have the opportunity to reduce those charges.
  2. Evaluate your contract: Is your current agreement the best deal you can get? You don’t know what’s possible until you ask.
  3. Lighting can be a hidden cost: Are you aware of what type of lights you use? Are they the most efficient? Are unnecessary lights turned off when not needed? Have you considered motion sensors?
  4. Air recycling: Heat rises, making it important to properly recycle your air. Have a professional examine your system. Efficient ceiling fans (or exhaust fans in warmer weather) could make a major difference.
  5. Avoiding the pressure: Steam and air pressure are common ingredients in many industries. Leaking joints, pipes and systems can be a huge energy drain.
  6. Water equals power: If you use water from a municipal treatment plant (or even your own facility), nearly 20% of that cost is energy. Examine your system to eliminate water leaks. You are paying for your water, as well as the energy it takes to process and move the water.
  7. Check the pumps: Workplace pumps are huge energy users. Assess your pumps – are they needed? Could they be changed out for a more efficient model? Would a variable speed pump make more sense?
  8. Transportation troubles: Another personal priority needs to be carried over to the workplace. Car/truck care in the form of proper tire pressure, tune-ups and other maintenance is essential. Companies with multiple vehicles are often well served by having someone responsible for the fleet.
  9. Proper planning: In addition to the modes of transportation, logistics are critical. Efficiently planning trips and scheduling deliveries will help conserve power and enhance productivity. This applies to organizations of all sizes.
  10. Compressing the fuel: Compressed natural gas continues to gain favor among many companies with heavy delivery schedules. An upfront capital outlay is often rewarded with a very timely return on that investment.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, I and a local business leader look forward to sharing this information and talking energy with members at each stop on our Connect and Collaborate tour. Your business could be the beneficiary.

Cheer Earth Day, Not EPA’s Latest Moves

87741351Something to celebrate for Earth Day: Indiana’s air quality has not been as good as it is today in over 60 years! I remember the first Earth Day 45 years ago and for a decade served on the Indiana Earth Day board. I’ve witnessed step by step Indiana’s group effort to make the air cleaner and cleaner.

Today, more than 90% of Hoosiers live in areas that meet ALL air quality standards. In 2005, that number was only 61%. To monitor all the air quality and progress, Indiana operates and maintains more air quality monitoring sites than any other state in the Midwest on a per-person basis. We’re on top of it.

Indiana does have a few remaining air issues in pockets of the state, but those are being addressed. Whether that’s the lead level in Muncie, the ozone standard in LaPorte County or the one-hour sulfur dioxide standard in parts of five counties – all are making progress and should be remedied in a reasonable timeframe.

Still business and industry in Indiana and across the nation continue to be whipped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with regulations that are grossly unfair and frequently tightened on a whim. All the vast improvements go unnoticed and the goalposts keep moving further and further away. Ironically, as our ozone levels have declined, the incidence of childhood asthma has actually increased.

The impact of EPA’s pending controls is real and will cost every business and person that uses electricity. Yet there is no real environmental benefit that will be realized. Industry in the U.S. and Indiana has spent billions of dollars installing expensive pollution control equipment. The data clearly shows that our emissions have substantially decreased. In other words, we’ve pretty much squeezed everything out of the ozone orange.

Over the many years, Earth Day has helped bring attention to industry practices that needed scrutiny. That was a very good thing. But the EPA is taking its efforts too far. It’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and exhale. And you know what? We can do that outside today because the air is so much cleaner.

Complimentary Chamber Series Features Energy-Saving Tips, Member Benefits

in chamberRising electric bills unfortunately appear on the horizon due to new federal regulations. To help prepare the Hoosier business community, the Indiana Chamber will highlight timely energy-saving tips at its complimentary 2015 Connect and Collaborate series.

“Ten Tips to Manage Your Organization’s Energy Costs” will feature Vince Griffin, vice president of energy and environmental policy at the Indiana Chamber. Griffin is one of the leading voices on all energy topics as a result of his 17-plus years at the Indiana Chamber and previous industry experience.

Griffin will be joined by Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and a local business/community leader in each of the eight Connect and Collaborate stops throughout the state. They will share guidance that can be applied for organizations of all types. Each session will also include a moderated panel discussion featuring questions and comments from attendees.

What’s more, these events offer a free lunch and introduction for non-Indiana Chamber members about the organization’s benefits, as well as act as a reminder for existing members about how to take full advantage of the membership services.

“Connect and Collaborate luncheons are a great way to gain simple tools to improve your workplace,” remarks Brock Hesler, director of membership with the Indiana Chamber. “This will be an excellent opportunity to learn what others are doing and bring some new ideas back to your office or production floor.

“In addition to inviting all of our members, we encourage those not currently part of the Indiana Chamber to attend and learn more about the organization,” he says.

There is no cost for the luncheons, which take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. The schedule kicks off in Indianapolis on May 11 and wraps up in Muncie on August 25. In between are stops in Fort Wayne (May 19), Lafayette (June 2), Merrillville (June 8), Elkhart (June 9), Evansville (July 28) and Bloomington (August 20).

Details and registration are available online or by contacting Nick Luchtefeld at NLuchtefeld@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-6898.

Organizations Earn IOED Grants for Energy Conservation Efforts

fThe Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED) recently announced seven grantees that will share almost $600,000 to help support their unique, Hoosier-based community energy conservation projects.

Recipients of the 2015 Community Conservation Challenge (CCC) grants are:

Bethany Christian Schools – $100,000
Bethany Christian Schools will utilize its CCC grant dollars to install solar panels on its school roof. It will also install a wind turbine, which will be accomplished through other partnerships the school has established. Bethany Christian Schools will incorporate energy projects and conservation considerations into its student curriculum and community events.

Center for Sustainable Living – $99,989
Five congregations of different faith traditions will install solar panels to reduce their energy costs. These congregations cover a large portion of the state and include the communities of Bloomington, Indianapolis, Jeffersonville, Merrillville and Gary. The Center will share this project’s successes and promote energy conservation with other congregations and faith traditions around the state.

City of Bloomington – $59,381
Five facilities in Bloomington and Ellettsville – including two schools, one park, a fire station and a parking garage – will receive LED lighting upgrades and motion sensors through the CCC grant. The City of Bloomington and Monroe County will reach out to residents through all forms of traditional and social media to teach them how to become more energy efficient.

Evansville Park Foundation – $100,000
The Park Foundation will use its CCC grant dollars to install off-grid, stand-alone solar powered LED lighting with battery backups at Jacobsville Park and the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage. Neither of these locations has any form of lighting currently. These lights will not only be more energy efficient than traditional forms of lighting, but they will also help to extend park hours and provide enhanced public safety. The Parks Foundation will also reach out to residents about energy efficiency through this project. Vectren Corporation, the local electric utility, has selected this project for further study with the intent to develop an educational outreach plan for consumers.

Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) – $38,579
LED streetlights will be installed in Dublin (Wayne County) and Williamsport (Warren County) using CCC grant dollars. These LED lights will replace less efficient mercury vapor lamps. IMPA will share project successes and promote energy efficiency with its other 59 member communities and their customers.

Lake Shore Foods Corporation – $100,000
The Karwich and Franklin stores of Al’s Supermarkets in Michigan City will retrofit their lighting to LEDs. This energy efficiency project will be shared with their customers and local residents through “Al’s Good Neighbor Program” which promotes Food, Exercise and Sustainability.

Loftus Robinson – $100,000
Loftus Robinson will install a combined heat and power (CHP) project at The Switch, a mixed-used commercial facility in downtown Fishers. CHP is an integrated and highly efficient energy system that captures the “waste heat” produced by electricity generation. This waste heat is recycled and can be used for additional energy needs like heating or hot water. This system will also provide standby power for emergency lighting and elevator systems. The City of Fishers will partner with Loftus Robinson to educate the public on the project and its benefits for the community.

“We were very pleased with the response to this year’s CCC grant program,” said Tristan Vance, Director of the Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED) and Chief Energy Officer for the State. “This competitive grant program recognizes and encourages collaborative conservation efforts. Perhaps most importantly, the ability to incorporate an educational component into each community project helps tell important energy conservation stories in clear and tangible ways.”

Chamber-Supported Water Bills Pass Out of Committee

The Chamber supports two bills that recently unanimously passed out of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee.

SB 473 requires the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to establish a program under which volunteers may monitor the water resources, which includes both ground water and surface water. This data will be provided to IDNR. Provides that the department shall: (1) train the volunteers participating in the program in the proper collection and transmission of data; (2) determine the location and ensure the adequacy of the monitoring wells used in the program; and (3) conduct water resource monitoring independent of the program to verify the quality of the data derived from the program.

In testimony, the Chamber supported the development of a comprehensive water resources plan. An essential element of that plan will be adequate and reliable data. Senate Bill 473 creates a mechanism that will allow the voluntary collection of data from diverse sources which is then managed by state and federal agencies. This data will fill a current void in the depleted monitoring network with minimal cost and effort by the state.


SB 474 requires the Indiana Finance Authority to prepare an analysis of the planning and long-range needs of: (1) the water utilities serving the 15 most populous cities in Indiana; and (2) five other water utilities selected by the authority, each of which serves fewer than 10,000 customers.

The Chamber testified that an integral part of a water resources plan is the ability of the state’s water utilities to create and execute long-range plans. Senate Bill 474 uses the ongoing efforts of the Indiana Finance Authority to analyze a sampling of the state’s water utilities to assess their ability to construct and implement long-range plans.