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.
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.
You've likely seen the videos of people driving boats down the Mississippi River and other systems as large fish fly into and around the boat. While it makes for amusing video, the introduction of Asian carp into the ecosystem is a concern for many.
The Indiana Catfish Conservation Assocation recently posted the following notice, and the Indiana Chamber is happy to be involved with these education forums:
The Indiana Wildlife Federation in partnership with the Little River Wetland Project, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Indiana Forum, Inc. announce three educational forums to be held this fall.
The meetings will cover the progress of control efforts to keep Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species out of the Great Lakes. The forums will also provide background information in preparation for the Army Corp of Engineers report expected to publish in January, 2014, which will present alter-natives for stopping Asian carp and all aquatic invasive species transfers between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basins.
All stakeholders and the public are invited to attend.
Registration is not required.
Email email@example.com or call 317-875-9453 or 800-347-3445 for more information.
November 6, 2013 – PORTAGE
3:00-4:45 pm CST
6100 Southport Road
Portage, IN 46368
November 14, 2013 – FORT WAYNE
6:30-8:30 pm EST
900 Library Plaza
Ft. Wayne, IN 46802
November 19, 2013 – INDIANAPOLIS
3:00-4:45 pm EST
IN Wildlife Federation
708 East Michigan St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
The recent news that parts of five Indiana counties have been pushed out of attainment for ambient air quality and exceed a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard for sulfur dioxide comes as no shock.
Indeed, the U.S. EPA continues to lower the standards, making it increasingly difficult for communities to meet the new requirements.
U.S. EPA officials point to coal-fired power plants as the main contributors to the release of more sulfur dioxide than is permitted in the new standards. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas that contributes to acid rain that damages the environment and can worsen breathing problems.
Parts of Marion, Morgan, Daviess, Pike and Vigo counties are the ones that have now been pushed out of attainment. For a number of years, all 92 counties have met the necessary levels for ambient air quality standards. But the U.S. EPA has continued to tighten the belt on standards that measure carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.
Hoosier regulators now have 18 months to draft a plan telling how the counties will come back into compliance within five years.
So it sounds like Indiana’s air is just dirtier than ever, right?
Nope. In fact – it’s much cleaner than it’s ever been in our lifetimes. This 2011 BizVoice® story on the state of Indiana’s environment points to significant improvement in Hoosier air, water and land quality. But that’s hardly the story everyone hears.
For the story, I spoke with Dr. William Beranek Jr., president of the Indiana Environmental Institute, a third-party forum for analysis and understanding of Indiana’s environmental protection laws, rules and policies.
This is what he told me at the time: “We have been steadily and significantly improving across this timeframe (past 20 to 30 years), by sulfur dioxides, by nitrogen dioxide, by ozone, by lead and by particulates,” he explains.
“One of the challenges we’ve had across this time is that the technical community – for better or worse – has been steadily determining that some of those parameters are actually more harmful to human health than we had thought. Therefore, while we had been steadily improving the quality of the air, the indicator of whether we have good air has been steadily tightening. We’re at a point where we’re just as far from the finish line as we were when we started.”
Another expert on the matter: Bernie Paul, president of B Paul Consulting and former air quality expert for Eli Lilly & Company, also pointed to the federal process used for evaluating and changing air quality standards – starting with the Clean Air Act of 1970. That legislation was written so that all standards are re-evaluated every five years, and that cost implications cannot be taken into consideration when creating air quality standards.
“For a public agency to have to re-evaluate technical information every five years, when it takes 10 years to execute the plans to bring the air quality level down to where they set it, that’s a broken process,” he insists.
“A 10-year or even a 20-year review cycle would make more sense, because it takes so long for all of the implementation to be executed. We really can’t have a system where you’re constantly churning the standard.”
How does this relate to you? If coal-fired power plants are pointed to as the problem with these new regulations and the only way to match the requirements is to add more emission controls (or phase out coal altogether, as some would suggest), that means your electricity rates will go up.
Organizations including the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provide estimates between 83% and 95% of Indiana’s electricity coming from coal-fired power plants. It affects jobs here too: the EIA ranks Indiana as eighth in coal production in the country.
These are just some things to keep in mind the next time you read a story about Indiana’s “dirty” air.
We've discussed battles over water rights previously — and certainly will again. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court basically told Texas it has no right to claim billions of gallons of water on the Oklahoma side of the Red River. The Court reinforced an existing compact between those two states, Arkansas and Louisiana. Stateline reports:
The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday unanimously rejected a Texas water district’s attempt to tap river water in Oklahoma, settling a dispute that raised questions about state sovereignty and natural resources at a time when water is increasingly scarce and fought over.
The ruling found that the Texas authority had no right to the water in question, despite a four-state pact designed to ensure equal access to the water that flows in the Red River. The Tarrant Regional Water District had filed a lawsuit in 2007 saying Texas was entitled to some 130 billion gallons of water on Oklahoma’s side of the river basin.
As Stateline previously reported, the questions at the heart of the case have taken on increasing importance as drought and water shortages have strained water supplies and relations among many western states.
The dispute was seen as a potential test case for states’ rights over natural resources, but it’s likely the effect will be narrow, Marguerite Chapman, a law professor at the University of Tulsa, said.
“I think it affirms the integrity of an interstate compact as essentially a contract,” she said. “I don’t think it will disturb other compacts…the far-reaching effect would essentially be affirming the language that’s in the contract.”
The case centered on the Red River Compact that was signed by Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and approved by Congress in 1980.
The compact grants the states “equal rights to the use and runoff” of undesignated, or unallocated, water that flows in the sub-basin where the Tarrant district is staking its claim — but only if flows to Louisiana and Arkansas reach a certain threshold.
“No state is entitled to more than 25 percent of the water,” the pact says.
The compact has been in place for decades, but Oklahoma lawmakers enacted a moratorium on cross-state transfers in 2002. When the original moratorium expired in 2009, the Oklahoma legislature overhauled the state’s permitting process to effectively exclude out-of-state applicants for water.
Indianapolis has seen many changes in the past decade. But as old, beloved structures are torn down to make way for new ones, People for Urban Progress (PUP) believes that material need not be wasted. PUP drew attention from citizens and media alike for reusing the RCA Dome rooftop and fabric from Super Bowl promotions, and is now garnering recognition for repurposing seats from the old Bush Stadium. I sat down with PUP Development Innovator Amy Crook to discuss the non-profit organization — which considers itself a "do-tank" – and how it's working to change the capital city.
Chamber: Tell me about PUP. When and why did it start?
Amy: It was founded by Michael Bricker, our chief innovator, and his business partner in 2008. At the time, there was talk of imploding the RCA Dome and they had a natural curiosity about what would happen to that "white stuff" on the roof. They wondered, "Can it be used for something else?" They learned more about what could be done with it. So they salvaged it, and the plan at the time was to make 1,000 bags out of it and other products – wallets, clutches, messenger bags. They raised $70,000 in selling these goods. Half of that went to designers who made the products, and we partnered with RecycleForce … and then the rest of the money went toward projects. Through that project, we put up two shade structures in the community in partnership with Indianapolis Fabrications and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Do any other major cities have similar organizations?
Not that are a not-for-profit model that we’re aware of. … We’re going through a strategic planning process right now, so we are looking at places like Goodwill and TOMS Shoes – and locally, you could say that we have a similar model as Freewheelin', which allows kids to work on repairing bikes, and when they work so many hours, they actually get a bike. The bikes they work on are purchased by the community to raise money for the organization.
How many people work here?
Jessica Bricker, our product designer, is closest to full-time, and she is Michael’s twin sister. Michael works 8-10 months for PUP, but he’s also a production designer for film projects and may be called away for a month or two. I work for PUP three days a week and also do freelance marketing on the side. All of our designers are contracted. There are five of them and they all have full-time jobs.
How are you funded? Do you work with government or via grants?
We’ve been predominantly funded by the sale of products. But this strategic planning is (supported by) the first official grant that we’ve gotten from the Lilly Endowment to help us go through the process. We’ve applied for other grants to help us with material processing. A lot of people are coming to us for these large-scale projects like we’ve already taken on, such as salvaging 13 acres of RCA Dome material, five miles of Super Bowl fabric and 9,000 Bush Stadium seats. There’s this space in the middle that you can’t take to the recycling center, but you can’t put in the landfill either, so we just want to be able to restructure to be able to say “yes” to accepting more materials and trust that we can get them back in the community in a unique way.
Is the city paying you to place some of these Bush Stadium seats at bus stops?
It’s a partnership with IndyGo. IndyGo has a budget per seat amenity, and we’re raising sponsorship dollars for the other half. During the Seat Salvage Phase of the project, we had raised $10,000 from (four) funders to help us get more seats out with the tight deadline: Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health and a private funder.
What’s the greatest challenge facing Indy right now that you’re working to solve, big picture-wise?
Our mission is promoting public transit, environment and design, and based on our research and conversations in the community and with community leaders, urban design and aesthetics have come out of that – an educational effort about what is good design. Michael is also co-chair of the Indy Rezone steering committee.
Transit is also important, of course. Since 2008, we’ve been working on getting a car sharing program started. And then there’s an environmental component – just being good stewards to the earth. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to be replacing their seats in June, and this has been the first project where people really think of us and contact us in advance to create a plan. Whereas with the dome and other projects, we found out late and then had to figure it out. But now people are talking with us to come up with plans, so they don’t have to scrap this stuff or throw it in a landfill.
Tell us about this Make 5X5 contest you just held.
The 5X5 Indianapolis arts and innovation came out of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The first one was hosted by Big Car, and we hosted the second one. The next one will be IndyHub. (CICF) came to us and gave us a budget to throw an event based on a theme, and we asked for five organizations to present a five-minute pitch on five slides, and the winner would get $10,000. So our theme was “Making.”
(The winner was the Cool Bus, which will serve as a literary center for children.)
What are some challenges in keeping an organization like this going, in accomplishing your goals?
We’re moving forward and there are some capacity issues, and if we had more people involved or more financial resources, we’d be able to get this stuff out in the community more quickly. But there is progress being made and we’ll be able to have a bigger impact.
Our strategic plan is called “Doing Things.” We took a risk and started this thing and we’re still here and making it happen; let’s take the next steps and create something other people can replicate. We’re keeping an eye on Minneapolis and Atlanta, where they have Teflon-coated fiberglass as their stadium rooftops. We don’t necessarily want to acquire that material, but we know what you can do with it so we want to have a seat at the table and help them find ways to use it in the community and process that material.
You support the mass transit initiative in Indianapolis. Why is that important?
All the articles I’ve been reading now about millenials and Gen Y, we aren’t all going to be homeowners and two-car families. Our salaries aren’t as grand, and our stability in our positions is different. But you’d be surprised, this generation is one of the smartest generations and they are spending within their means. They’re not buying fancy cars; they’d rather cut back and invest in their art, or having children – and invest in that versus things. A strong transit system would help foster that way of living. If you’re having children and you need two cars, and you don’t have a supplemental transit option, you’ll lose people and they’ll go somewhere where they don’t need a car. Our generation travels and experiences other cities, so when you see another city where travel is more efficient, you think about that.
For myself, in my first couple of jobs I was driving 45 minutes to work and back. Now I have a 1.5-mile walk to work. Once you try that, you don’t go back.
You think this type of organization would succeed in any other cities in Indiana?
We were just talking about Bloomington today and its new transit center, wondering how we could get some PUP seats there. While our mission statement is directly for Indianapolis, we’d like to see mini-PUPs, or people can come to us for a resource and we may have experience to help you do something in your community. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. We started with everyone doing this on the side. If there are seats being removed from a stadium or banners that need to be recycled, you can do that and we could consult about how to re-use those materials.
Do you have a topic you're passionate about, and would like to know what the Indiana Chamber is working on in that area? We've developed some web pages highlighting key issues that will show you what we're focused on and offer some background on our public policies. See the pages below, and more information will be added weekly to these as the session progresses.
Indiana Chamber VP of Environment & Energy Vince Griffin discusses the state of Indiana’s water and air. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear how it compares to previous generations. For more, visit www.indianachamber.com/environment.
A new study from Ball State University reveals that migraine sufferers can have enhanced headaches due to indoor environments. It’s important that employers take this into consideration — especially if many of your staffers are inexplicably taking many sick days.
Office workers may suffer more intense migraines and more frequent headaches due to an uncomfortable indoor environment, more commonly known as sick building syndrome, says a new report from Ball State University.
"Headache symptoms and indoor environmental parameters: Results from the EPA BASE study" found employees working indoors may become sick due to abnormal levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, light, humidity, temperature and sound.
The study found that when exposed to an uncomfortable indoor environment, 38 percent of participants reported having a headache one to three days a month while nearly 8 percent had daily headaches, said Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor in Ball State’s Department of Physiology and Health Science. He conducted the study with Suchismita Bhattacharjee, a professor of construction management in the Department of Technology at Ball State.
"Millions of Americans and people worldwide are affected by migraines and headaches, mostly during the highly productive years of their lives," said Khubchandani, who also is a faculty fellow with the university’s Global Health Institute.. "Migraines and headaches lead to significant decline in quality of life, productivity and daily functioning."
Produced only once by the Environmental Protection Agency, this was a multicenter cross-sectional study of 4,326 office workers employed in 100 randomly selected large office buildings across the country. The largest study of its kind used the data collected by EPA for the Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation (BASE) study during 1994-1998. Results were recently published by the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology.
As a result of the research, the authors found:
Females were more likely to report a headache in the last four weeks when compared to males (75 percent vs. 53 percent).
About 21 percent of employees admitted that a physician had diagnosed them with migraines. Females (27 percent) were significantly more likely than males (11 percent) to report a migraine diagnosis.
The highest levels of migraine diagnosis were for employees exposed to out-of-comfort range carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in their office buildings.
Exposure to out-of-comfort range indoor environmental parameters was higher in groups that reported higher headache frequencies.
Because headaches related to office environment lead to loss of workdays and decrease productivity, the authors recommend that building managers implement effective intervention strategies to reduce the prevalence of headaches and other symptoms of sick building syndrome.
"Collection of periodic data on indoor environmental parameters should become a universal practice, and based on the data, a health risk management plan for the occupants should be designed," Bhattacharjee said. "Reviewing operation and maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems should be made an integral part of the strategies to reduce harmful worksite exposures."
Did you see gasoline prices at the pump hit almost $4 recently? Earlier in the year experts projected that we’d see it go as high as $5 this summer – and summer is definitely not over.
Depending on how often you fill your gas tank, driving back and forth to work, the grocery store, daycare – just the basics – can add up quickly. (We budget at least $300 a month for gasoline in our household, with only one car and a small child keeping us at home most evenings.)
Imagine having a fleet of vehicles that have massive tanks to fill (dump trucks, ambulances, school buses, tractor trailers, snowplows). That would add up quickly – and does – for the state of Indiana and public and private businesses of all types here.
The point is: gas is expensive; diesel is expensive. And, neither are the cleanest fuel options available. But, is there another legitimate option? Possibly.
State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) is leading the charge for compressed natural gas as an alternative. During the recent Clean Energy Summit held at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Frye invited Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition Executive Director Kellie Walsh to present information to a group that included representatives from a number of utility and energy organizations.
Walsh’s presentation highlighted the fact that 80-90% of natural gas is produced domestically.
Some other interesting facts:
Natural gas is not a threat to soil, surface water or groundwater; its nontoxic, noncorrosive and non-carcinogenic
It has lower ozone-forming emissions than gasoline
Most natural gas is drawn from wells or in conjunction with crude oil production and can come from subsurface porous rock and shale
Natural gas powers about 112,000 vehicles in the country and roughly 14.8 million worldwide and has been used as a transportation fuel for over 30 years
Compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992
Frye told Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick that the state could save around $200 million in fuel costs over a 10-year period by switching vehicles to compressed natural gas. He intends to work on legislation to incentivize the switch, he says.
While the natural gas seems to be there for the taking, there is not much infrastructure in place to support it: filling stations would have to be built; fleets would need to be retrofitted with natural gas engines (which Cummins makes already, by the way).
This just scratches the surface of the positives and negatives of natural gas; most likely it will be a story that we follow in the near future.