Unfunded Burden of EPA Mandates on States Grows

Protecting the environment is a noble goal. However, when the EPA issues mandates that are not reasonable, states suffer. A new U.S. Chamber report has more:

How can states administer 96.5% of all federal delegated environmental programs when federal grants to the states fund no more than 28% of the amount needed to run the programs? The study, the eighth in a series on the federal regulatory process, concludes that instead of being the system of cooperative federalism that Congress intended, the current relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states has become one-sided, with the federal government imposing its will.

The U.S. Chamber recommends Congress take specific steps to alleviate and prevent EPA from continuing to commandeer the states. These recommendations include redefining the term “mandate” to better track the impact on the states, passing the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015, enacting the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, and several other actions outlined in the study.

All About the Water

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The governors of the Great Lakes states recently approved a request by a Wisconsin city to draw water from Lake Michigan after its existing water supply dried up. But because the city isn’t in the watershed of the Great Lakes, the two Canadian provinces that share Great Lakes water rights say the request should be denied.

Waukesha, Wisconsin will be allowed to tap Lake Michigan for up to 8.2 million gallons per day once it completes a $207 million pipeline project that would draw in lake water and return fully-treated wastewater.

Delegates for the governors of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York gave their unanimous consent to the first formal request to divert water outside the Great Lakes basin during a meeting of the compact council.

The 2008 compact prohibits water from being sent outside the basin watershed. Communities like Waukesha, located over the line but within a straddling county, can apply under a limited exception.

The eight governors approved the request over the objection of widespread opposition. Mayors, legislators, policy-makers and citizens around the Great Lakes have worried about the precedent Waukesha’s application represented.

Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to provide safe drinking water by mid-2018. The city draws most of its water from a deep aquifer that is contaminated with unsafe levels of radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen. The city has a population of about 70,000 people.

Kiplinger warns that more water conflicts will flare up, citing California, India, South Africa and the Middle East among the likely areas of dispute.

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

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Summer will be in full swing with a multitude of training opportunities to enhance employees’ expertise and protect your bottom line this August.

First up is the 2016 Indiana Tax Conference, one of the state’s largest, on August 11. Learn the latest in tax case law and legislation as highly-experienced speakers identify ways to help you stay in compliance and reduce tax liability.

Francina Dlouhy, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, will share her perspective on a crucial issue during her keynote luncheon presentation – It Was a Bad Idea Then and It Still Is Now! What Combined Filing Would Mean for Indiana. Among other themes are multistate tax hot topics for 2016, Affordable Care Act reporting compliance and an Indiana Department of Revenue update.

BKD, LLP is the presenting sponsor. Gold sponsors are MCM CPAs & Advisors and McGuire Sponsel. The silver sponsor is DMA – DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.

Fuel business savings the following week by attending the 14th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management on August 17-18. Learn how to cut costs and maximize resources as energy experts from throughout the state share practical – and effective – compliance strategies.

Don’t miss engaging keynote presentations:

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (invited) – opening general session: August 17
  • Canadian Consul General Doug George – Energy Security and Supplies: the Canada-U.S. Relationship – general session: August 18
  • Kyle Rogers, The American Gas Association, and The Edison Electric Institute representative (invited) – Outlook on Natural Gas and Electric – closing luncheon: August 18

Additional highlights include panel discussions, customized training (choose from a variety of options) and an expo showcasing the products and services offered by businesses in your field. Explore topics such as distributed generation; reducing utility bills; using the government and tax code for energy efficiency; and energy bankruptcies.

The 14th Annual Conference on Energy Management will take place at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis-Downtown Union Station. Register online or call (800) 824-6885.

Gold sponsors: EDF Energy Services; Ice Miller LLP; MacAllister Power Systems; and Vectren. Silver sponsors: Cummins, Geronimo Energy, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, NIPSCO and Telamon Corporation.

Rounding out August offerings are:

Sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

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.”

Accelerate Team Performance with These Opportunities in May

Don’t coast along when it comes to employee skills and legal developments that impact your business. Engage people – and protect your bottom line – through a variety of upcoming training events.

The annual Indiana Worker’s Compensation Conference will take place May 11 at Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station. It will feature sessions on psychological injuries in the workplace; the impact of worker’s compensation on your organization; Indiana’s Worker’s Compensation Act (and how it works together with the FMLA and ADA); and more!

Sponsors are Athletico Physical Therapy, Center for Diagnostic Imaging, Ice Miller LLP and Pro Resources Staffing Services. Contact Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876 regarding additional sponsorship and exhibit opportunities.

Shift gears by attending the annual Indiana Environmental Permitting and Reporting Conference on May 18-19 at the Indiana Chamber Conference Center. Sponsored by KERAMIDA, Inc., it’s the most complete and comprehensive permitting and reporting course offered in the state.

Highlights include:

  • 2016 Annual Reporting Requirements and Update
  • Are You Prepared for Your Next Air Compliance Inspection?
  • Spill Reporting and Spill Prevention Considerations
  • Most Common Notices of Violation – How to Demonstrate Permit Compliance
  • Beneficial Reuse of Foundry Sand/CCR – Permits and Regulations

Two additional events, both at the Indiana Chamber Conference Center, round out May offerings: Forklift Safety: Train the Trainer (May 24) and OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting Course (May 25).

Register for any of these events online or by calling Nick at (800) 824-6885.

The Drop on Indiana Water Issues in the 2016 Legislative Session

34886804Indiana’s water quantity issue received significant attention in the 2016 Indiana legislative session as Sen. Charbonneau continues to champion calculated steps toward a credible water policy for the state. His mantra has been “data before decisions” and the legislation this year reflects that refrain, which the Indiana Chamber strongly supports.

Senate Bill 347 (Water Resources) is Charbonneau’s 2016 flagship for the water issue. The bill does three things: 1) directs the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) to conduct a “water loss” audit of all water utilities; 2) says the IFA will conduct a quality control assessment of well locations; and 3) instructs the IFA to study, analyze and report to the LSA by November 1, 2016, on the infrastructure needs of Indiana’s water utilities. This bill adds to the growing library of data that will guide the state’s water policy.

Senate Bill 257 (Distressed Water and Wastewater Utilities) promotes the purchase of distressed water utilities before they totally collapse. With over 500 water utilities in the state, this is a critical issue.

A cousin to SB 257 is SB 383 (System Integrity Adjustments).For many years, we have not adequately maintained our aging water and wastewater infrastructure. It is out of sight and out of mind. The cost is estimated at over $14 billion to restore this decaying system.

Senate Bill 383 provides that a water or wastewater utility may petition the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to recover approved charges. The Chamber supports a fair and equitable way to address this issue, for an inadequate water and sewer system will
negatively impact our economy.

House Bill 1300 (Environmental Management Matters) is IDEM’s annual catch-all bill with a variety of issues including: revising the term “land application”; revoking a temporary variance; clarifying when an antidegradation review is required; extending the vehicle mercury switch program; recycling issues and electronic devices reporting, and addressing rates and charges by regional water, sewage and solid waste districts. The Chamber supported HB 1300 as it clarifies and creates efficiencies within the administration.

House Bill 1299 (Voluntary Remediation Plan) was IDEM’s bill to give it more teeth to cull out those that are not adhering to its proposed work plan and timeline. The administration, however, pulled the bill as IDEM believes that it has enough power at this time to enforce the voluntary remediation plan (VRP) program. The Chamber believes that if a project is accepted into the VRP program that it should follow the approved plan within the identified timeline. The VRP program should not be a means to shield a site from litigation or cleanup.

Senate Bill 255 (Underground Storage Tanks) directs IDEM to conduct an actuarial study of the Excess Liability Trust Fund (ELF) that is to provide monies to clean up underground storage tanks.

The ELF realizes one penny for every gallon of pumped gasoline and diesel; the fund is now in excess of $100 million, with many millions in charges pending for cleanups. The actuarial study will identify how much money will be needed for registered tanks and the balance required to clean up “orphan” tanks that have no owners with a responsibility to remediate the site. The Chamber supported SB 255 as it promotes the restoration of sites, which potentially create a viable location for a business that will provide jobs and pay taxes.

The Chamber has long supported the use of waste products as a credible feedstock for another process. Senate Bill 256 (Legitimate Use of Solid Waste) conceptually promotes that model. If administered properly, it is a win/win as the producer of a waste saves the cost of treatment/disposal and the recipient of the material has a free or inexpensive feedstock – and valuable landfill space is not consumed.

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.

Temporary Halt to EPA Clean Power Rule

10044552Last summer, President Obama attempted to circumvent Congress by implementing increased regulation of carbon emissions from power plants through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This was after his climate change legislation failed twice in Congress. However, it is the responsibility of Congress – not the administration – to set policy. The successful Supreme Court appeal centered on that point.

These proceedings are especially important for Indiana, which is 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.

Skipp Kropp, attorney at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC and a member of the Indiana Chamber’s Energy Committee, summarizes the legal battle and what it means. Further analysis available from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

‘Lawsuit Lending’ and Asbestos Litigation Bills Expected

statehouse-picLast month the Indiana Chamber reported that a Colorado Supreme Court decision determined that “lawsuit lending” is a loan and will be regulated under the Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC) in Colorado – and that it could impact what happens in the Indiana General Assembly. (Lawsuit lending is the practice of advancing money to a plaintiff/someone involved in an accident in anticipation of winning a lawsuit in court. If the plaintiff is awarded a settlement, the advance must be repaid at considerably high interest rates. If the plaintiff loses the suit, there is no obligation to repay the loan.)

Representative Matt Lehman (R-Berne), recently elected the House GOP Floor Leader, has indicated that he indeed will be filing his annual lawsuit lending bill – though it will look different. Previously the measure was titled Civil Proceeding Advance Payment Transaction (CPAP), which was defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a person (CPAP provider) provides to a consumer claimant in a civil proceeding a funded amount. However, this year’s version will mirror the language in Colorado. The 2015 language specifically stated that the UCCC does not apply to a CPAP transaction; but his year’s bill (although not yet filed) will place the transaction under the UCCC.

Separately, Rep Tom Washburne (R-Evansville) will be filing a bill regarding asbestos litigation. It’s expected to require a plaintiff who files a personal injury action involving an asbestos claim to provide information to all parties in the action regarding each asbestos claim the plaintiff has filed or anticipates to file against an asbestos trust. The bill’s intent is to provide transparency to asbestos litigation and to discourage a plaintiff from being able to file an asbestos suit against an employer and also file a claim to an asbestos trust.

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.