Energy Projects Could Earn State Funding

Creative and unique energy conservation programs could earn some funding support from the state. Applications are now open for the 2015 Community Conservation Challenge (CCC) grant program.

Below are a few of the particulars with full details online from the Indiana Office of Energy Development.

  • Available funding: $700,000
  • Application deadline: February 20

CCC projects must be located in Indiana and must use commercially-available technologies. The project must be visible to the public and have at least one community partner, demonstrate measurable improvements in energy efficiency or the use of renewable energy, result in a reduction in energy demand or fuel consumption, or involve the implementation of an energy recycling process.

Eligible Indiana applicants include local units of government, school corporations, businesses, universities, and nonprofits. Applicants may apply for either an Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy grant or an Alternative Fuel Vehicles grant.

Winners from the 2012 CCC Program included Ozinga Indiana, RMC, which converted six diesel ready-mix trucks to compressed natural gas (CNG); Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light for a solar energy project; the Linton-Stockton School Corporation for a new HVAC system, new roof and boilers; and CNG truck conversions for Bestway.

An Energy/Environmental Issue Primer for the Start of Session

The 2015 legislative session began Tuesday and will adjourn no later than April 29. This “long session” will include the state’s $30 billion biennial budget and likely see more than 1,000 bills filed. Bill filing deadlines are January 13 and 14 for the House and Senate, respectively. You can count on the environmental and energy area to add its fair share of legislative ideas to the mix. In the environmental arena, we expect to see the following:

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s perennial laundry list of technical “clean-up” items
  • Rep. David Wolkins’ “No More Stringent Than” annual initiative
  • Something related to “brownfields” and clean-up efforts
  • Anti-harvesting of Indiana’s hardwoods
  • Above-ground storage tanks controls

In the “water resources” area, we expect to see the following:

  • Legislation to direct the Indiana Finance Authority to survey/examine the larger – and a few smaller – water supply utilities in the state
  • Establish an Indiana Water Resources Institute
  • Create incentives to promote water utilities to invest in infrastructure improvements

And it is likely that the electric power/energy area will really heat up (sorry) as multiple issues rise:

  • Legislation related to the Governor’s energy plan
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Allowance to purchase electric power outside the current provider
  • Install a requirement that any new electric power generation be allowed competitive bids/procurement
  • Establish a rate case schedule for electric power utilities of XX (to be determined number of) years
  • Address the rural vs. municipal territorial/compensation dispute

Not all of these issues are ones that the Indiana Chamber will necessarily oppose or support – they will be part of the discussion but some may never get a hearing. This is like your friendly weather forecaster trying to tell you if it will rain, snow or be sunny in one month.

Purdue’s 4-H Outreach Expanding to City Youth

RI may be a graduate of Indiana University, but the IU/Purdue rivalry stops at the edge of the basketball court for me. That’s likely for two reasons: (1) I have at least a modicum of perspective, and (2) I’ve written about Purdue in BizVoice enough times to be flat-out impressed by the school’s innovative educational efforts and its dedication to giving students a well-rounded experience.

Additionally, the fact that Purdue has an extension presence in all 92 of our counties is quite remarkable to me. While I’ve written about Purdue’s work to reach rural students in the past, I was somewhat surprised to see how it’s helping 4-H make an impact among Indiana’s urban populations.

Because urban areas tend to not have a strong tradition of 4-H, Purdue Extension is creating new programs in heavily urban Lake, Marion and Allen counties to attract more young people there.

They’re not your typical 4-H clubs.

“These clubs meet after school and are heavily focused on engaging young people in science and helping them understand where food comes from as well as career opportunities in agriculture,” said Renee McKee, program leader of 4-H and youth development at Purdue University.

A nationwide expansion of 4-H into urban communities was made possible through a National 4-H Council funding opportunity that originated from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  In Indiana, the program is funding three start-up 4-H clubs in each of the three counties.

The effort is a strategic initiative of Indiana 4-H, McKee said. Key to making it work is getting community leaders and volunteers involved to help keep the 4-H clubs going once the grant funding is no longer available.

“The idea of creating urban 4-H clubs is to make them part of the fabric of the community, just as 4-H has done in many rural communities across Indiana,” she said.

Lake County in 2011 was the first of three urban counties in Indiana targeted for 4-H clubs funded this way. Funds initially were used to hire three program assistants who helped with establishing the clubs, planned activities and led meetings. They also work to connect parents and others from the community to volunteer with the club so that the community eventually takes responsibility for leading the programs. Urban clubs in places such as East Chicago and Gary now join the “traditional” clubs, such as those in Crown Point and Lowell where 4-H has been active for years.

“The main difference between when we started and now is that volunteers are taking a larger leadership role, and we have more investment from the local community,” said Julie Jones, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Lake County.

Now that the clubs are established in Lake County with about 100 members, including students of elementary and middle school age, older youth such as high school students are being encouraged to join the county’s 4-H Junior Leaders program and participate in the 4-H Round Up, a three-day workshop for middle school students to explore careers at Purdue in the summer.

Allen County began participating with this effort in 2012.

This year, three new urban clubs are starting in Marion County, all of which have a technology focus called Tech Wizards, an after-school, small-group mentoring program developed at Oregon State University. Tech Wizards work on technology-driven projects such as robotics and videos.

The Marion County clubs are being organized in less traditional places in Indianapolis such as the Felege Hiywot Center, which teaches gardening and environmental preservation to urban youth. 4-H also is working with the Immigrant Welcome Center, a resource for the growing number of immigrants in Indianapolis.

“Many of our opportunities to reach young people are in after-school settings, and there so many issues that impact after-school 4-H,” said Jim Becker, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Marion County. “These issues include transportation, single-parent families, the poverty rate and competition from other youth organizations.”

McKee said the urban initiative shows that 4-H can reach a diverse population statewide.

“Because of this Indiana strategic initiative, we have the ability to serve young people in Indiana regardless of where they live,” McKee said.

Keystone XL Pipeline Defeat Will Likely Be Short-Lived

119744231The Keystone XL Pipeline bill was narrowly defeated Tuesday in the U.S. Senate. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar offers his thoughts on the policy and the latest activity in Washington:

“Canada is going to continue to develop the oil sands and sell to other nations whether the U.S. allows the Keystone XL Pipeline or not. Whatever the impact that activity has on the environment, the activity is still going to happen. That’s the reality. Continued posturing by the Obama Administration and others amid calls from environmental groups isn’t going to change that.

Other countries are looking out for their energy futures. The U.S. needs to as well. Going forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline is an important part of the mix. It would strengthen and expand our already vital energy relationship with Canada. And sourcing more of our energy from a friendly, North American neighbor will help reduce our reliance on energy resources from less stable areas of the world.

Indiana is fortunate to have two senators – Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly – who understand the pipeline’s importance and have been staunch supporters of the project. It’s too bad the Senate, on the whole, couldn’t get past politics and do the right thing for our nation’s energy security. However, we look forward to early 2015 when this measure seems destined to finally pass the Senate and make its way to the President’s desk.

Background: The proposed Keystone XL project would construct a 1,700 mile pipeline to transport about 800,000 barrels a day of heavy crude oil from tar sand fields in Canada across the central U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Water, Water Not Everywhere Any More

TWhen I started writing about water earlier this year as part of the Indiana Chamber’s report on our state’s water resources, I never imagined the topic would be this deep. I’m not drowning, but do feel a little over my head at times on this ever-flowing topic.

The paragraph above makes the point that water puns are almost endless (see, I didn’t say pool, ocean or other aquatic term). But seriously, work is taking place on evolving this year’s study into concrete action steps over the next several years to help ensure Indiana’s resources for the long term.

In Kansas, long term means 50 years. Check out a few of the details (including the last paragraph on why this is so important) from this Topeka Capital-Journal article:

Gov. Sam Brownback opened a water policy conference by unfurling a nearly completed 50-year plan containing dozens of proposals for confronting the state’s obstacles in meeting agricultural irrigation and drinking supply demands.

Salient issues requiring attention involve topsoil pouring into man-made reservoirs in eastern Kansas and depletion of the underground Ogallala Aquifer in western regions of the state. Reservoir dredging and aquifer conservation figure prominently in the blueprint, which also raised the possibility of drawing excess water from the Missouri River to supply Kansas consumers.

Brownback said the water study process initiated one year ago would culminate in strategies specific to regional geography and consumption patterns. Pieces of the solution will be expensive, the governor said, and state laws and regulations must be modified to speed reform.

The document recommends crafting tougher state regulations and enhanced enforcement to hold water-right violators accountable.

“As I look out on the future of Kansas, one of the big things we have to resolve is the issue of water,” he told more than 600 people at the conference. “It’s just one of those key things that we’ve got to address. We’ve got to do it working together.”

A blue-ribbon task force is to be formed to map a “balanced, affordable and sustainable” strategy for paying for water projects financed with local, state and federal funding, the governor said.

An estimated 85 percent of water consumption in Kansas is due to irrigation, officials said.

Jackie McClaskey, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, said the report would direct state agencies involved in recruiting businesses to focus economic development on entities that value water conservation and reliance on technology that improves water efficiency.

Chamber Releases New Study on Indiana Water Supply

A new study from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation warns that without planning and proper management, the state’s water supply – a longtime natural resource strength – could become a challenge for both businesses and citizens.

While Indiana is not facing the dramatic shortages of California or other states in the West and Southwest, its current economic advantage – plentiful water supplies – will dry up, according to Water and Economic Development in Indiana: Modernizing the State’s Approach to a Critical Resource.

“This is definitely a jobs and economic development issue,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Our state’s economy is growing more diverse, but we always will make things. And it often takes large, reliable supplies of water to do so.

“We experienced a seasonal drought just two years ago and at previous times in our state’s history. The goal is to ensure those droughts and more prolonged shortages do not negatively impact our state in the future,” he explains.

The importance of this issue is underscored in the Indiana Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan, which lists the development and implementation of a state water strategy as one of its 33 goals. What’s more, a recent report out of Michigan found that Indiana is the most water-dependent state in the entire country as it pertains to its impact on the economy.

The Indiana Chamber study was commissioned in late 2013 and conducted over the first half of this year. It was led by Bloomington-based Jack Wittman, Ph.D., principal geoscientist with INTERA Incorporated; Wittman has frequently consulted with water providers throughout the state. A water advisory council, comprised of key water users and producers, provided insight and guidance through a series of regular meetings.

Among the findings:

• In Southern Indiana, local water resources are not always able to meet anticipated future needs. For example, there are few aquifers or perennial streams immediately south of Bloomington – a prime area for business development with the expansion of Interstate 69 and the continued work at the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
• While water supplies in Central Indiana are diverse and utilities are making plans, continued population growth leads to projections of an additional 50 million gallons per day to meet the needs of the region by 2050.
• North of the Wabash River, water is relatively abundant. The area, however, is seeing significant increases in water usage for irrigation. These seasonal fluctuations require additional monitoring, in part to determine impact on other water users.

“Not only does water matter today,” according to Wittman, “but management of water will be even more essential in the future.”

Wittman says a separate study conducted earlier this year found that Indiana ranks first in the nation in the percentage of its economy that depends on water. He also notes various agencies (state, federal and local) and universities already do work in the areas of water management and analysis, but that one entity must be designated to lead the way. Among the specific recommendations:

• Creating widespread awareness about the need for water supply planning
• Coordinating current efforts, including the funding of additional water research
• More robust monitoring of water resources
• Standardized systems for data analysis and water resource management

“What this study does is set the stage for creation of a long-needed, long-range water plan for the state,” offers Vince Griffin, Indiana Chamber vice president of energy and environmental policy. “While a credible plan may take three to five years, legislators – from the Senate and House, as well as both parties – understand the importance of this issue and are prepared to lead on the next steps.”

Brinegar adds, “Additional financial investments will be needed to ensure a reliable water future. That’s why we commissioned this study now and why we encourage all involved to take these results and use them as a playbook for development of a long-range water plan.

“Indiana should be taking advantage of its current water supplies to help attract and retain businesses – and jobs. If we plan properly for the future, those resources will continue to be an economic advantage.”

Additional comments from four members of the water advisory council:

“The release of this study is a good first step in starting the important dialogue about water use in our state. Even though agriculture is a small user compared to other sectors, a stable and abundant water supply is crucial to growing the crops and livestock that feed Hoosier families. Indiana Farm Bureau looks forward to continuing our participation in this important project that will ensure an adequate water supply for all of Indiana.”
– Don Villwock, president of Indiana Farm Bureau

“This report, and the efforts of the (Indiana) Chamber’s Water Advisory Council, are a call to action for Indiana to prepare for meeting the broad range of water needs that form the foundation of the economic future and quality of life for all Hoosiers. By improving the understanding of our current water resources, we can be better prepared to assure their continued availability for the state’s businesses and residents.”
– Thomas M. Bruns, president, Aqua Indiana, Inc. and representing the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Water Companies

“Indiana corn and soybean growers realize that water is a critical resource needed to produce our crops and for our industry to flourish. This report gives us all a starting point to ensure that our state thrives while our farmers continue to provide food for their families, neighbors and the world.”
– Mike Dunn, director of production research, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council

“The Indiana Section of the American Water Works Association believes this study is an important step toward ensuring an uninterrupted supply of water for Indiana. The availability of water is vital to the continued growth of business and industry and to the quality of life for all Hoosiers. Congratulations to the Indiana Chamber Foundation on its foresight in taking a long-term approach to addressing the importance of water to Indiana’s future.”
– John A. Hardwick, chair, Water Utility Council, Indiana Section American Water Works Association

Waters of the United States Informational Meetings Around Indiana in August

The Indiana Chamber is working with the Indiana Farm Bureau and many other business and industry groups to strongly communicate our deep concern about the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers proposed expansion of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act? This will expand federal control over Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) – to which we are opposed.

As you will see below, The Farm Bureau is holding a series of informational meetings around the state and YOU are invited. Be sure to register if you will be attending.

If you’d like more information, reach out to Justin Schneider (317-692-7835 or 317-919-8087) or Kyle Cline (317-692-7845 or 317-502-7415). The schedule is below, and here is the full listing that includes locations:

  • August 5: 2-4 p.m. in Tipton County
  • August 7: 9-11 a.m. in Decatur County
  • August 7: 7-9 p.m. in Randolph County
  • August 18: 10 a.m.- noon in Vigo County
  • August 18: 7-9 p.m. EST /6-8 p.m. CST in Jasper County
  • August 21: 1-3 p.m. in Marshall County
  • August 21: 7-9 p.m. in Dekalb County
  • August 28: 9-11 a.m. in Monroe County
  • August 28: 3-5 p.m. in Tippecanoe County

Comment Period Open for EPA’s Latest Carbon Regulation

Potentially devastating to our state. That’s how we view a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation to strictly limit carbon emissions from the nation’s existing coal-fired power plants. This latest proposal comes on the heels of a plan to put in place greater pollution controls for any new power plants.

The President has left no doubt that he is mounting an all-out war against coal. Congress refused to bite on a climate change bill, so he’s spending his second term trying to legislate via the EPA. Smart, necessary regulations make sense, but that’s the opposite of what we have here; it’s entirely unreasonable given our nation’s energy needs.

These EPA regulations also will barely even move the needle toward reducing carbon emissions (not even by 2% according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy), but they will deal a tangible blow to the national and state economies.

The Institute for 21st Century Energy predicts the regulations will result in a whopping $51 billion in annual economic losses through 2030. On top of that, some 224,000 Americans will lose their jobs and consumers will pay $289 billion more for electricity. Separately, the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated the electricity cost increase could be as much as 80%.

Most Hoosier businesses and families can’t afford to pay that, and they certainly can’t afford a slumping economy and job market.

The reality is that Indiana will be hit far harder than most states because it’s the number one per capita manufacturing state in the nation. Over 80% of Indiana’s electric power comes from coal, compared to only 45% for the country. Despite diversification efforts, coal remains Indiana’s primary energy source.

For decades, companies that have located in Indiana have often cited a reliable and affordable supply of electricity among the determining factors, according to site selectors and information gathered by state government. Losing that competitive advantage entirely is now a real possibility with coal coming under attack by the Obama administration.

We encourage you to let the EPA know your thoughts on this latest regulation by visiting www.indianachamber.com/EPA. Also, let your members of Congress know; they need to take action before irreparable damage is done to our economy.

Summer, Sharks and Spielberg

“After seeing Jaws for the first time, I was scared to even get in the bath tub.”
That’s the story a family friend has told me over the years. He’s exaggerating, of course, but there is a grain of truth in what he says. When Steven Spielberg’s Jaws hit theaters in 1975, it freaked people out.

One of my summer highlights is watching Discovery Channel’s Shark Week (I’m counting down the days until it airs in August), which got me thinking about two stories that always have fascinated me and pulled at my heartstrings. Both have a connection to Jaws.

In 1916, four people were killed and one injured after being attacked by a shark along the New Jersey shore. There have been several books written about the events, including one called Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive Investigation of the 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks. It’s on my summer reading list.

Two victims were killed while swimming near popular resorts. Two more died in Matawan Creek – yes, a creek! Lester Stillwell, just 11 years old, was enjoying an afternoon of fishing when he was attacked. When 24 year-old tailor Stanley Fischer rushed to his aid after hearing cries for help, he heroically lost his life. Not long after and further upstream, teenager Joseph Dunn was bitten, but survived. These events are said to have inspired Jaws.

Another story hits close to home.

One of the most powerful scenes in Jaws is a monologue by Captain Quint about the USS Indianapolis, which sank on July 30, 1945 in shark-infested waters after it was hit by Japanese torpedoes. The crew was returning from a mission in the South Pacific where they delivered components of the Hiroshima bomb.

There were 1,196 men on board. Only 317 survived. Every time I read about this horrific event, I get goose bumps. The History Channel recounts the story.

Throwback Thursday: Water on the Brain

Many involved in the Indiana environmental community are likely aware of our ongoing work on a survey of Indiana water resources in an effort to gauge future supply and demand.The Chamber actually hired Bloomington-based hydrogeologist Jack Wittman for the effort. In fact, read his recent Q & A with Indy-based NUVO magazine on the issue.

Along these lines, we recently discovered a similar report from June 1953, titled “Water Resources Report to Southern Indiana Inc.” The entire document is nearly 70 pages, but here are a few notes from the general summary:

These points are held to be fundamental guides for conducting future work:

1. Present water conditions – supplies; flood damages
2. Potential long-term supply needs
3. Potential long-term supply opportunities
4. Possible reductions of flood losses
5. General benefits to entire area which may result from improvement projects

The valley-wide approach to the water problem of Southern Indiana is all-important because surface water must be the main source of supply.

It is recognized that there now is a tremendous waste of water resources in Southern Indiana. Much water is lost in flood periods during the heavy rainfall seasons of the spring and early summer while many stream beds are almost dry in late summer and fall months. Equalization of the stream flows, therefore, is taken as the key approach to the problem…

It is impossible to propose a “blanket remedy”  for water problems in Southern Indiana. IN any year, losses from drought may be just as severe as losses from flood, or greater. Any storage of water in small watersheds is of much value to farm operations. The value of farming is on equal status with that of manufacturing and commercial activities in the support of the business system.