Senate panel overhauls environmental rules bill

Indiana would keep its authority to make its own environmental rules after a Senate committee passed an overhaul to a bill that would have let the federal government set all standards.

The proposal passed the Environmental Affairs Committee 8-0 and heads to the full Senate.

Earlier versions of the bill would have prevented Indiana from passing local environmental laws that were tougher than the federal government's.

The amended bill would let the Indiana Department of Environmental Management retain its power to make environmental rules throughout the state. But the bill would task IDEM to annually report any proposed change to the General Assembly.

Valparaiso Republican and committee chairman Ed Charbonneau said the change addresses concerns of opponents who argue the state would not be able to fix its own unique environmental problems. Supporters of the original bill have said too much overreach from an overzealous administration could hinder economic development.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, praised the overhaul.

"In the backdrop of recent drinking water crises in Charleston, Toledo, Flint, and Greentown, the state of Indiana needs to continue to empower our professionally-trained, taxpayer funded-environmental experts to head off pollution threats facing Hoosiers," he said in a written statement. "We are grateful for the wisdom and foresight of Se. Ed Charbonneau … and other members of the committee who understood this…"

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