Indiana state agencies would be required to defer to federal environmental rules, rather than enacting more stringent state rules, under the terms of legislation being considered in the state legislature.
Supporters of the bill, S.B. 298, say overly stringent state environmental regulations have hurt the state’s economy and threaten to cause even more economic harm in the near future. Opponents of the bill claim the state should impose regulations where state agencies see fit.
“If this passes, it obligates Indiana to consider the federal programs as good enough for us, whether they meet our needs or not,” Tom Maloney, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, told the Associated Press. “That’s just abdicating the state’s ability to take care of its citizens.”
“I think the EPA standards are strong enough, and I don’t think we need to be reinventing the wheel and going through the process of adopting standards that are stricter than the federal standards,” countered Rep. David Wolkins (R-Winona Lake) in the AP article.
“I can’t think of any reasons to be more stringent,” Wolkins told the Indianapolis Star. “The feds are spending enough time looking at (standards), and they would not allow anything that will be a major health hazard; they’re watching out for it.”
Economic Price Cited
Wolkins noted Indiana already has paid an economic price for imposing environmental rules more stringent than federal standards. According to Wolkins, for example, the state’s water quality standards have created a backlog of water permits currently awaiting action by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
“This legislation illustrates how federal regulation can actually discourage states from adopting more aggressive environmental protections,” Jonathan H. Adler, associate director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said. “Sometimes when environmental activists push legislation in Congress to create a federal ‘floor,’ they end up creating a federal ‘ceiling’ as well.”
Environmental activist groups are currently pushing for a state rule that would impose on state businesses mercury rules more stringent than those recently enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA forecasts its rules will result in a 69 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2020.
Small Business Aid Offered
S.B. 298 contains additional provisions designed to aid the state’s small businesses. Under the bill, each state agency would be required to assign a small business regulatory coordinator to review each rule proposed by the agency. The bill also immunizes from civil or criminal penalties small business owners who voluntarily self-report a rule violation.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Manufacturers Association, and National Federation of Independent Business have expressed support for S.B. 298.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.