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Environmental bills to watch

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

A number of bills with environmental impact have been introduced in both houses of the Indiana Legislature. Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, is following bills the HEC believes have potential for movement and support in both houses and from both parties. The HEC considers what bills might further economic development in Indiana by supporting environmentally friendly practices. For example, if Indiana has lax laws regarding pollution in the drinking water supply, businesses will be less likely to have operations in Indiana, he said.

This year, the HEC has been watching bills addressing financial assurance for concentrated animal feeding operations, property-assessed clean energy bonds, and renewable energy standards. A fourth issue, the promotion of public transportation, was shelved this session because of its impact on the budget and a need to raise taxes. The HEC is also following bills addressing activities that could affect ground and surface water, including a bill to limit the use of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, and coal bed methane operations.

Financial assurance

HB 1568 – Provides that a person may not start the construction of a concentrated animal feeding operation, an expansion of a CAFO that would increase animal capacity or manure containment capacity, or both without obtaining the prior approval of the Department of Environmental Management. Establishes financial assurance requirements for confined feeding operations and CAFOs. Requires the Water Pollution Control Board to adopt rules before Jan. 1, 2012, to set the amount of financial assurance – insurance that would cover the damage caused from a spill or closure of a manure storage site – that is required.

Latest Action: Referred to Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development: Jan. 20.

Coal bed methane and other oil and gas safety issues

SB 71 – Allows the Department of Natural Resources to adopt emergency rules for most aspects of oil and gas and other petroleum regulation. Provides that oil and gas statutes do not apply to methane ventilation governed under an approved federal Mine Safety and Health Administration coal mine ventilation plan. Allows the director to review certain activities that may result in waste or endangerment of the health and safety of miners. Requires the Natural Resources Commission to regulate various aspects of coal bed methane wells.

Latest Action: Approved on 3rd reading, referred to the House: Feb. 8.

Property-assessed clean energy bonds

SB 260 – Allows the legislative body of a unit (other than a township) to establish a clean energy improvement financing program to fund clean energy improvements for voluntary participants in the program. Requires financing to come from private equity or federal grants or loans. Prohibits the legislative body from issuing bonds to finance clean energy improvements. Establishes a 20-year period for the payment of special assessments on each participating property. Provides that assessments are billed, collected, and enforced in the same manner as property taxes.

Latest Action: Approved by Committee on Utilities & Technology: Feb. 7.

Similar bill: HB 1457

Latest Action: Referred to Committee on Local Government: Jan. 20.

Restrictions on fertilizer containing phosphorus

HB 1425 – Establishes restrictions on the application of fertilizer material that contains phosphorus. Provides exceptions for fertilizer material that contains less than 0.67 percent of phosphorus per weight or is used for agriculture purposes. Requires distributors and licensed commercial lawn-care applicators to prepare and provide certain consumer educational information.

Latest Action: Referred to Committee on Natural Resources: Jan. 18.

Renewable electricity standard

SB 453 – Requires an electricity supplier to provide a certain percentage of its total electricity supply from renewable energy resources. Establishes the Renewable Energy Resources Fund to receive penalties paid by electricity suppliers that fail to supply electricity from renewable energy resources. Requires the Utility Regulatory Commission to report not later than April 1, 2016, to the General Assembly on the effectiveness of and industry compliance with the renewable energy standard.

Latest Action: Referred to Committee on Utilities & Technology: Jan 12.

Clean energy standards

SB 251 – Requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to allow an energy utility to recover certain federally mandated costs through periodic retail rate adjustment mechanisms. Sets standards for what is clean energy. Requires the IURC to adopt rules to establish the Voluntary Clean Energy Portfolio Standard Program to provide incentives to participating electricity suppliers to provide specified percentages of electricity from clean energy sources. Establishes goals and reporting requirements.

Latest Action: Reassigned to Committee on Utilities & Technology: Feb. 7

Source: Jesse Kharbanda, Hoosier Environmental Council; Indiana General Assembly website. Action on bills current as of Feb. 14.

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