Editorial: Bill to create carbon marketplace is step forward for business, environment

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There are lots of examples of Republicans and Democrats clashing over legislation that would impact the environment. The disputes often (but not always) boil down to the business community’s objections to regulations they believe are costly but that environmentalists say are necessary to protect land, air or water.

In Senate Bill 373, lawmakers seem to have found a way to make both sides happy—or at least happy enough to propel the bill out of the GOP-controlled Senate with a 33-16 vote.

We urge the House to pass the bill as well.

SB 373 would create a state-sponsored carbon market in Indiana that would help pay for efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that get trapped in Earth’s atmosphere.

Here’s essentially how it would work:

Big companies are already buying what are called carbon offsets—which means they are paying to reduce emissions in one place to make up for emissions they are creating (through manufacturing or electric usage or other processes) elsewhere. When a company says it is trying to become carbon-neutral, it often means that it is—at least in part—paying for a reduction in emissions somewhere else that is equal to some part of its own consumption of energy.

Those offsets can pay to protect forests or plant trees, for example, which naturally help reduce carbon dioxide. Or they pay for the technology needed to capture methane released by landfills. Farmers can also take steps to essentially lock carbon into their fields—a process called carbon sequestration. But the costs to set up such programs are expensive.

In Indiana, there’s no market that will bring the two sides of these transactions together. That means corporations that are often spending millions of dollars to buy carbon offsets are typically sending that money to organizations, typically in other places, often in other countries.

SB 373 would set up a marketplace—overseen by the Indiana Department of Agriculture—to try to keep some of that money in Indiana and help Hoosier farmers and other property owners pay the costs of containing carbon.

“These farming practices are being established throughout the state of Indiana,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Susan Glick, the Republican who chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee. She was quoted in a story posted by IndianaEnvironmentalReporter.org.

The more that landowners farm, the “more they realize that the loss of their environment has serious impacts on their ability to farm and their long-term ability to sustain this planet,” Glick said. “These people are taking an active interest in the establishment of these practices and they are urging us to go forward with this.”

SB 373 is a good way to encourage companies to purchase carbon offsets and farmers to take steps to protect Indiana’s environment. And it will keep the money local, which is good for everyone involved.•

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