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Environmentalists concerned about Indiana agenda

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One of Indiana's largest environmental groups said Friday it was concerned that this year's General Assembly may weaken Hoosiers' ability to protect themselves from pollution and other health risks.

Hoosier Environmental Council Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda said the group is trying to find out whether an executive order setting a moratorium on new regulations applies to rules regarding the environment and public health. Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the order, which is intended to attract new business investment to Indiana, on his first day in office.

"If they are exempt we are less worried; if they are not exempt, we are very worried," Kharbanda said during a telephone conference with reporters. He said the group was in discussions with the administration trying to determine how broad the moratorium was.

The council is also wary of a measure that would require a cost/benefit analysis after the first three years of any new regulation, Kharbanda said. The costs of new regulations tend to be felt early, he said, while benefits such as improved health or safety don't become apparent until later.

"It presents a very skewed view of the benefits and cost of the regulation," he said.

The group also wants to make sure officials consider health benefits when they calculate a regulation's cost. And they want to make sure that any spending reductions don't impede the ability of the state Department of Environmental Management and Department of Natural Resources to do their jobs.

A spokeswoman for Pence did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Another raft of bills could strip local communities and individuals of the power to protect themselves from water pollution and related health risks, particularly those posed by massive industrial-style livestock farming, said Kim Ferraro, the council's director of water and agriculture policy.

The broadest measure is a bill pushed by Pence and authored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, that would make those on the losing end of lawsuits pay all of the legal fees. If passed, Ferraro said, such a rule could make residents endure water pollution, odor and other health risks rather than risk going broke fighting people with much deeper pockets.

"For people of modest means who are already hesitant to bring such a lawsuit, they would now have a significant deterrent," Ferraro said.

Other proposals apply specifically to concentrated animal-feeding operations, or CAFOs. One bill authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, would effectively shut neighbors out of setting standards for such factory farms, Ferraro said. Instead, standards would be decided by Purdue University and industry representatives.

"The first provision of this bill would allow industry to write its own standards," Ferraro said. The proposal also would give CAFOs "almost virtual immunity from lawsuits, as long as they were in compliance with the regulations they wrote," she added, and prohibit local health departments and planning commissions from passing any local ordinances regulating livestock operations.

"In other words, completely disarming local communities and people from protecting themselves," Ferraro said.

A joint resolution winding through the Senate and the House would go even further and declare farming a constitutional right. That, Ferraro said, could make all laws regulating agricultural operations unconstitutional.

The Associated Press left messages seeking comment from the legislators involved in the proposals criticized by the council.

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  • no shame...
    ...these Republicons have NO shame at all, they care more about the $$$ in their bank account than the quality of life and health of the humans who live here...how are Hoosiers so ignorant to elect phony Christians like Pence and then be surprised to see him do the bidding of his TRUE masters!
  • Cost/benefit
    A cost/benefit analysis can be a very useful tool in determining the true cost of environmental and other regulations. However, it is a very difficult and expensive process to do an accurate cost/benefit analysis. The costs are easy to determine. The benefits may be difficult to determine accurately if the benefits are spread over hundreds of thousands of people. Young people may benefit more than old people; people with preexisting health problems may benefit more than the healthy. The what is the value of a human life question enters the picture. What state agency does the administration expect to do the analysis or is it to be contracted out, if so at what cost and what benefit?
  • Hmmm...
    Wait until someone sets up an animal factory upwind of Geist or Carmel. We'll see how long what now passes for "farming" remains a "constitutional right".
  • from the back pocket dwellers
    " 'In other words, completely disarming local communities and people from protecting themselves,' " No, they would still let people keep their assault guns and ammo. "A joint resolution winding through the Senate and the House would go even further and declare farming a constitutional right. That, Ferraro said, could make all laws regulating agricultural operations unconstitutional." This is crazy but probably to be expected.

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  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

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