Now that the legislative session has concluded, learn the final status of key bills monitored and advocated for/opposed by the Indiana Chamber in 2017 (links are PDFs):
Finally! The long-sought approval for the Keystone XL oil pipeline is in sight. For years, the Indiana Chamber has advocated for the pipeline, which would ship crude from Canada’s western oil sands region to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
This action by the Trump administration reverses one of former President Obama’s most politically charged environmental decisions that came more than a year ago, when construction of the 1,200-mile pipeline was blocked.
In other news:
Three amendments were recently offered to SB 309 and approved during last week’s hearing – two by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion) and one by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville). One amendment clarified who qualified as an applicant for a CPCN, one for the study of self-generation by schools and one changes the deadline of installation to receive the 30-year grandfathered rate to December 31, 2017.
The Indiana Chamber testified in support of the bill and tried to clarify some of the confusion over net metering (no one is trying to kill the solar industry). We also expressed some of the concerns that some members have over co-generation (that they would like more flexibility). We emphasized that we do not want the bill to fail because it is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all concerns our members have expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs and building a statewide energy plan. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s competitive edge when looking at energy costs that have risen over the past decade.
On March 22, the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee heard nearly a day of testimony on this bill in a full House chamber from many groups and individuals, both in support and against the bill. No vote will be taken until Wednesday.
The energy revolution continues to bring good economic news to an otherwise anemic economy. For years, we’ve been arguing that America’s energy revolution will bring jobs and investment to our economy. Now, there’s a new example to demonstrate just how true that is.
At the annual CERAWeek 2017 conference, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods announced a new Growing the Gulf initiative to increase its manufacturing capabilities in the Gulf Coast region. As part of the initiative, the company will be investing $20 billion to build or expand 11 different facilities – creating 45,000 new American jobs. So why is a giant company best known for oil production investing so much in manufacturing?
Last year, the U.S. Chamber’s Sean Hackbarth captured the essence of how America’s energy revolution has sparked a manufacturing revolution as well. The natural gas, crude oil and gas liquids being produced across the country in record amounts are the chemical building blocks to products we use every day, from clothing to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. One needs to look no further than the aisles of a department store to see all the plastic products, and that plastic comes from natural gas and oil.
Sophisticated high-tech manufacturing facilities turn these energy resources into the products we buy every day. As we produce more home-grown energy, it is leading to more home-grown manufacturing as well. Plentiful energy resources are making it less expensive to build products in the United States, and those same resources are also providing the electricity needed to run manufacturing facilities at reduced costs.
All this manufacturing means more choices for American consumers, and it gives us an opportunity to export products. Domestic U.S. manufacturers are now competing all over the world, helping to reduce our trade deficit and creating jobs back at home. As a result, the United States, and especially the Gulf Coast, is becoming the epicenter of a manufacturing renaissance – exactly as we predicted.
In 2014, we launched our “Shale Works for US” campaign, which included a report produced with IHS CERA that quantified the far-reaching benefits from the shale revolution. It is important to note that because of our national supply chain, the benefits from investments reach each and every state, and in turn bring jobs, revenues and benefits to every corner of our nation.
It’s exciting to see these predictions borne out, and it’s a continued sign that America’s status as an energy superpower will help bring prosperity to us all – while driving innovation and technological advancement that help make America an economic superpower as well.
HB 1230 (Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals) was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb last Thursday.
The Chamber testified in support of this bill during the committee hearings and continued to advocate for its passage. This bill makes corrections to existing law to allow the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to have delegated authority from EPA regarding disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR).
The EPA had primacy over Indiana businesses that have CCR disposal issues.
Indiana ranks seventh in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s 2017 Small Business Policy Index (up from 10th in last year’s ranking).
This is the SBE Council’s 21st annual look at how public policies in the 50 states affect entrepreneurship, small businesses and the economy. The report ranks the 50 states according to 55 different policy measures, including a tax, regulatory and government spending measurements.
According to the report, the most entrepreneur-friendly states under the “Small Business Policy Index 2017” are Nevada, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Florida, Washington, Indiana, Arizona, Alabama, and Ohio. In contrast, the policy environments that rank at the bottom include Rhode Island, Oregon, Iowa, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, and California.
The Senate Utilities Committee heard a full day of testimony on SB 309 on February 9 from both sides. No vote was taken and the bill will be heard again on February 16.
Most of the committee testimony was focused on net metering. Senator Hershman offered an amendment on the floor and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) indicated he will be offering additional amendments to be considered at the next hearing. The Indiana Chamber gave testimony in support of the bill, including stating: the expectations for energy needs are diverse; our concerns about net metering if we do not make a step forward; the potential for rising costs through continued litigation; and the concern of numerous parties intervening in cases which will further slow down the process and increase costs to both utilities and ratepayers.
Overall, we testified the current bill is a step in the right direction and can be used as a building block going forward.
This bill is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all of the concerns our members expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs. It has elements of competitive procurement, net metering, distributive generation and transparency of utility rates. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s historical competitive edge, given the increase in energy costs over the past decade. With that said, we will need to consider all of the amendments before ultimately taking a final position on the bill.
The discovery of natural gas led to expansive glass production in East Central Indiana in the late 1800s. The industry lives on today.
Read all about it in the new BizVoice.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce formally introduced its new chairman at an awards dinner tonight. Ron Christian, an executive at Evansville-based Vectren Corporation, has been tapped to lead the organization’s board of directors for 2017.
Christian, executive vice president external affairs, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Vectren, has served on the Indiana Chamber’s board and various policy committees since 2006. Additionally, he has been a part of the Indiana Business for Responsive Government policy group since 2014. Christian was also a member of the 24-person Indiana Vision 2025 task force, which developed the long-range economic plan for the state. In 2013, Christian was named an Indiana Chamber Volunteer of the Year.
At the 27th Annual Awards Dinner before a crowd of nearly 1,500, Christian led the recognition for the Indiana Chamber’s outgoing board chair, Indianapolis businessman Tom Hirons, president and CEO of Hirons Advertising + Public Relations.
A southern Indiana native, Christian started his career as a utility lawyer for Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, after graduating from the University of Evansville, and then with a law degree from the University of Louisville. Christian returned to southern Indiana in 1999 during the merger of Indiana Gas Co. and Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., which created Vectren in 2000. Vectren serves more than one million natural gas customers in the state and west-central Ohio, and electric customers in southwest Indiana.
“Ron has been a key partner for the Indiana Chamber for many years and he has passionately given his time and expertise to work on various policy committees, and especially as a member of the Indiana Vision 2025 task force,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “We look forward to his leadership and increased involvement with our organization over the coming year.”
Christian’s chairmanship duties for the Indiana Chamber extend through the group’s next fall board meeting in November 2017.
See the 2013 Volunteer of the Year video on Christian:
The following is the third in our series of Beyond the Bicentennial letters, addressed to gubernatorial candidates. Read them all at www.indianachamber.com/letters.
Dear Mr. Gregg and Lt. Gov. Holcomb:
For Indiana to be the state we all want it to be – one that inspires business location and expansion, brings good-paying jobs to Hoosiers and allows for a high quality of life – a solid infrastructure framework must be in place that reflects both present conditions and is prepared for future developments.
The Superior Infrastructure economic driver in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan champions that belief, with goals regarding transportation, energy, water and telecommunications – all things sometimes taken for granted but inherently critical to running a business and enjoying the comforts of daily life.
Reliable roads and bridges doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for (especially for the Crossroads of America), yet it takes significant investment to keep them functioning, make enhancements and build anew. Frankly, our state has not done enough in recent years and has thus fallen behind.
In 2016, the state Legislature opted to provide short-term funding with a task force set up for the next phase. We all should know at this point – based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state – that what Indiana desperately needs is a long-term, sustainable, strategic policy plan. One that lasts decades, not a few years or election cycles. And above all, it must be based on the principles that enough revenue is raised to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and that every user pays their fair share.
There are a number of strategies that should be on the table – any or all of which the Indiana Chamber could support:
But, realistically, how we get there matters far less than advancing to the point where we have a robust transportation fund. It’s time to finally address this in 2017 – hopefully in a bipartisan way – before it becomes a crisis.
For decades, many companies have located in Indiana because of its adequate, reliable and affordable supply of electricity. But now that coal – Indiana’s most plentiful energy source – has come under frequent attack by the Obama administration, affordability is starting to go out the window. And how long will it be before businesses and jobs go with it?
Unfortunately, Indiana is to some degree at the mercy of the incoming president and the Environmental Protection Agency. However, we can take additional proactive steps at the state level to combat their actions against coal.
One avenue is to focus on diversifying Indiana’s energy mix with an emphasis on clean coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. Development and execution of a statewide energy plan (which does not currently exist) is essential.
Turning the attention to water, we need to finish the good work that stemmed from the Indiana Chamber’s 2014 water resources study and legislation carried by Sen. Ed Charbonneau and others to develop and implement a statewide water resources plan.
We must ensure that future water resources are available – our ability to effectively compete with other states depends on it. And we are approaching the point where research and data collection should soon transition to action. Leadership must be shown by the next Governor to help spearhead the process.
While the need for water has been obvious since the beginning of time, the advent of broadband and its economic significance is a much more recent development. It wasn’t that long ago that broadband was spoken about only in terms of faster and more reliable internet entertainment. But today, and in the future, its business, medical, security and quality of life impacts are paramount.
Legislation in 2015 that created the Broadband Ready Communities Development Center assists rural locales in working through the barriers they might have to broadband investment by a provider.
But not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We must find more ways to bring the most rural parts of Indiana up to date technologically to help reverse their downward population and economic trends.
That sentiment – being more aggressive – easily could be said for all of these infrastructure components. If elected Governor, we strongly encourage you to make that shift and put a greater priority on these vital issues.
Kevin M. Brinegar
President and CEO
Indiana Chamber of Commerce, representing 24,000 members and investors statewide