Legislative Session Ends with Environmental Highs, Lows
The 2001 Indiana General Assembly session ended with some high and low points for environmentalists. Perhaps the main point, though, is that we were there stronger than ever and had a measurable impact.
The Sierra Club has always been active on legislative issues in Indiana. This year, however, things changed with the major merchant power plant issue and the addition of Sierra Club lobbyist Laura Arnold and her strong focus on member participation.
Our number one effort, HB 1979 on merchant power plant siting, did not pass. Merchant power plants sell power on the wholesale market to other power companies during peak periods. The bill would have allowed a stronger local voice in the siting of these plants, an environmental impact study, and public hearings.
The utilities had their top guns out. But the Sierra Club’s Five Rivers Group and many other troops, along with Citizen’s Action Coalition, played the critical role in supporting this bill. Rep. Tiny Adams introduced the bill and was its tireless supporter.
We will not give up and will, with your help, be back next year!
Laura, our new lobbyist, worked to significantly increase membership participation and to help guide our members through the legislative labyrinth. Laura has worked with the Indiana legislature for a number of years and has established contacts with many of the legislators.
Shellie Rich helped with much phone work. While Bill Hayden, Laura, and I provided much of the testimony, we started a program to bring in group members for testimony.
In addition, we continued our effort to reach out and work with nontraditional allies, from the Farm Bureau to the Chamber of Commerce.
We worked to kill an administration bill that would have virtually eliminated merit employment in the state, including in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
We worked strongly to obtain funding/authorization for abandoned oil/gas well cleanup, for agricultural pollution control, for the Heritage Trust’s public lands acquisition, for an improved state cancer and birth defects registry, for Barrett Law refinements to make it financially easier for people to convert from septic systems to sewers, for combined sewer overflow plan developments, and for the Environmental Quality Service Council.
Unfortunately, some very good legislation on expanding the state revolving loan fund to help nongovernment entities control pollution, on lead abatement, and on septic districts became involved in legislative politics and did not make it this year.
Overall, while we did not finalize the merchant power plant legislation, it was a very good year! Looking to next year’s increased effectiveness, we need more member participation from across the state, including people to write letters and phone their legislators and help organize local response efforts. Please phone or e-mail the chapter office to say you will help. For a more detailed report, go to the chapter home page at http://hoosier.sierraclub.org/ and click on “Legislation Action” and then on “current information on bills.”
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