Conservationists Persist on Issues
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Special Designations work group remains divided on how antidegradation should apply to Tier III specially designated water bodies. Industry wants to move Lake Michigan from Tier III to a Tier II.5, which would allow additional pollution under certain circumstances. Environmentalists take the position that this would allow degradation and thus violate the antidegradation provision of the Clean Water Act.
As reported last time, IDEM's Office of Water Management is doing the Triennial Review of the Water Quality Standards Rule. The Office has put out a straw draft proposal for the updated rule. Rae Schnapp, Hoosier Environmental Council, sent IDEM comments on the draft, which participating environmentalists support.
The Office has completed two documents. One is a revision of the Water Surveillance and Assessment Strategy; the other is the Assessment of the East Fork of White River and the Whitewater River. The strategy had to be revised because the Surveillance Branch did not get additional staff and therefore cannot accomplish all listed tasks. Also, about 150 miles of the East Fork of White River were not assessed for recreational use because of insufficient staff.
In addition to eliminating positions that IDEM did not ask the General Assembly to fund, the Budget Agency Director has put out a memo to all department heads to cut five percent of the budget they submit for the next biennium. They may get the five percent back for new initiatives. IDEM Commissioner John Hamilton thinks this is good because it will take away the incentive for departments to spend their entire budget at the end of the fiscal year. I believe, however, that the O'Bannon administration is intent on cutting state governmentıs size, regardless of the environment.
The Office of Water has included the draft wetlands rule in the draft Water Quality rules. This rule seems essential if IDEM wants to enforce its Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality determinations.
Environmentalists met with Commissioner Hamilton on July 27. John Blair and Sam Labuddy from Evansville raised the issue of the proposed Con Agra plant at West Franklin, which is west of Evansville but in neighboring Posey County. They are concerned that too much air pollution already is coming from the GE plastics plant, an oil refinery, and AB Brown electric generating plant in Posey County, and that IDEM is being too quick to allow this major new source.
The Forest Stewardship Committee of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, has approved Indianaıs participation in the Forest Legacy Program. This will allow the state to use federal appropriations to buy forest preservation easements on privately owned forest lands to prevent them from being converted to other uses.
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