'No More Stringent Than': Why Disempowering Indiana's Department of Environmental Management Is Bad for the State

I was born and raised in a small industrial town located in East Central Indiana. The land there is flat, with open agricultural fields surrounding the city proper. My hometown is the seat of a rural county, with a major interstate running through its southern half. Cutting straight through my hometown is a state highway that leads to other destinations that look very familiar. To the south, for hours, are more industrial, rural towns. To the west is our state's capitol, Indiana's version of a city. To the east is the state line, where we are greeted with a massive sign welcoming you to Indiana, "Lincoln's Boyhood Home and the Crossroads of America." To the north, almost immediately, is another industrial town and the location of my beloved alma mater. Although I do not live in Indiana now, I will forever be a Hoosier.

And it is with this affection that I disagree with how Indiana is being governed. I hope that all of us, regardless of the state in which you reside or call home, would not be completely fine with how things are always being done. There can always be some improvement; it can always get better. That is one of the more beautiful aspects of living in a democratic society; we get to explore ways in which we can better ourselves and our communities. We can do that by supporting various economic, environmental, and social programs that protect us, our loved ones, and other community members. In fact, it is usually in our own best interest to reasonably consider the needs of others. We are part of the whole community, whether we like it or not sometimes, and both negative and positive issues may reverberate through the community.

Over the last couple of years, there have been a series of severe policy decisions made within the halls of the state assembly and the Governor's office that has accelerated the crumbling foundation on which Indiana's economy was built. One of the latest pieces of legislation, House Bill 1082, seeks to strip state agencies from enacting stricter environmental standards than the federal government. This bill explicitly restricts the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from customizing environmental regulations that truly fit the needs of Hoosiers across the state. The regulations coming from the federal government serve as guidelines for the states to develop unique standards that fit the unique needs of that specific state. Sometimes these needs require stricter standards than those set by the federal government, and sometimes not.

Now, on the one hand, you may look at this as a Republican concession that the federal government knows what is best for us environmentally. The other hand tells a different story, one in which the energy lobby makes contributions to the bill's authors and co-sponsors. This is because the energy lobby has things to gain from the legislation, such as higher revenues and a lower expectation to retrofit and update infrastructure and technologies to more efficient and environmentally-friendly methods (which, of course, does have a cost). Do these businesses have your best interests in mind? Or does an agency tasked with responding to environmental emergencies and managing our air, water, and land?

Passing HB 1082 into law is not good for Indiana and it is real Hoosiers who have a lot to lose.