Members of the Indiana General Assembly are at the Indiana Statehouse to begin their yearly session to vote on and amend bills that could become the state’s newest laws.
Some of the bills introduced could affect the state’s environment or help or impede Hoosiers from improving their own effect on the environment.
• Senate Bill 33: Solar panel decommissioning and disposal study, author Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus)
This bill calls for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to conduct a joint study on the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels in Indiana.
Solar panels and associated electronic waste that have reached the end of their service life are mainly shredded and tossed into landfills. There, they can release toxic materials into the surrounding environment as they break down, including silver, lead and chromium.
The study would look how the state can create a way to pay for the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels in Indiana, including collecting fees, and figure out the best way to recycle or dispose of them and related components.
• Senate Bill 91: Annual inspection of CFOs, author Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell)
Senate Bill 91 calls for the owners or operators of confined animal feeding operations to submit an annual report to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that contains information like construction and maintenance details, the operation’s manure management plan and environmental compliance procedures.
The bill could lead to increased oversight over confined feeding operations, which currently do not face much scrutiny from the state’s environmental agency. IDEM performs at least one inspection, called an initial compliance assistance visit, within the first year of operation for new confined feeding operations. From then on, IDEM staff usually conducts inspections only when complaints are raised against a confined feeding operation.
Confined feeding operations and larger concentrated animal feeding operations have been identified as potential sources of recreational waterway impairments like E. coli bacteria and excess nutrients for more than 24,000 miles of rivers and streams in Indiana.
Senate Bill 133: Right to food, author Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen)
Senate Bill 133 seeks to make growing food a right in the state of Indiana. The bill would prevent local governments from adopting ordinances or resolutions that prohibit or “have the effect of” prohibiting the growing or raising of food. The bill would still allow homeowners associations to place restrictions on food growing in leases and contracts.
• Senate Bill 155 makes two changes to the Indiana Code that affect the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The bill would allow the Environmental Rules Board, a 16-member board comprising representatives from multiple interests that votes on the rules carried out by IDEM, to amend fees. The bill would also make it state law that if the federal government designates an area of Indiana as being in attainment, nonattainment or unclassifiable under the Clean Air Act, the designation becomes effective and enforceable in Indiana under state air pollution control laws on the date of the regulation. The board could also adopt rules to set air quality standards under SB 155.
• Senate Bill 176: Small modular reactors. author Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford)
Senate Bill 176 amends a 2022 law allowing the construction of small modular nuclear reactors in Indiana to allow for the construction of larger power plants. The 2022 law limited the reactor size to 350 megawatts, but SB 176 would allow up to a 470-megawatt electric generating capacity.
Senate Bill 180: Allocation of wastewater utility costs, author Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford)
Senate Bill 180 would allow utility companies that provide both water and wastewater service in areas in which the utility company has acquired wastewater utility property in an acquisition to pass on the cost of utility property to their customers with the approval of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The bill will most likely result in major water suppliers, like Indiana American Water, recovering costs by passing them on to customers. The company took over city of Charlestown’s water utility in 2018 through the IURC and opened a new treatment facility in September.
Charlestown officials are currently planning to build a new $40 million wastewater treatment plant. It’s unclear whether the company has any plans to acquire that facility in the future, but Indiana American Water could recover some of the costs of that acquisition through rate changes due to SB 180.
The IURC currently regulates 66 water utilities that provide service to about 45% of the state’s residential water customers, including 24 wastewater utilities.
• House Bill 1033: Local unit water infrastructure fund, author Rep. Randall Frye (R-Greensburg)
House Bill 1033 would establish a Local Unit Water Infrastructure Fund that would be administered by the Indiana Finance Authority, which already doles out funding for water projects and other infrastructure projects.
The bill would require the IFA to allocate at least half of the total amount of grants in the fund to counties, cities and towns with less than 50,000 residents.
A 2016 IFA state audit found that many service lines in Indiana are nearing or are already at the end of their service life and need to be replaced, at the cost of $2.3 billion. The audit also found that even after water facilities are built or expanded, $815 million will be needed annually to maintain the utilities.
Along with aging, climate change impacts like more heat, more rain and subsequent flooding have forced Hoosier communities to invest millions of dollars to keep up with the changes.
Communities around the state are currently asking for about $2.4 billion in funds from the IFA-run State Revolving Fund Program for water infrastructure projects.
• House Bill 1068: Methamphetamine manufacturing in residences, author Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie)
House Bill 1068 would require county recorders to record notices of properties used to manufacture methamphetamine and certificates of decontamination of those properties. Currently, notices are only required to be filed with the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Health and local health departments.
According to the Indiana Department of Health, clandestine meth labs around the state have posed a serious danger to Hoosiers, including potential exposure to volatile solvents, corrosives, reactive metals and ephedrine/pseudo-ephedrine.
The state has standardized the drug lab cleanup process and provides property owners with a list of qualified inspectors, reviews the inspectors’ work, accepts and rejects certificates of decontamination and decides whether more testing or decontamination is needed. But property owners must decide whether the properties they own are ultimately safe and ready for occupants.
State records indicate 2,503 clandestine drug labs have been seized in Indiana since 2007.
• House Bill 1080: Biofuel tax credits, author Rep. Dave Heine (R-Fort Wayne)
House Bill 1080, introduced by corn farmer Rep. Dave Heine, establishes a tax credit of 5 cents per gallon for fuel station owners that sell at least a 15% blend of ethanol for vehicles. HB1080 also provides a 10 cent per gallon tax credit for fuel station owners that sell biodiesel and 18 cents per gallon tax credit for selling blended biodiesel.
The tax credits would begin in 2024 and would be available until 2030.
House Bill 1106: Mine reclamation tax credit, author Rep. Shane Lindauer (R-Jasper)
House Bill 1106 would provide a tax credit for companies that invest in the reclamation of coal mines and land next to the mines.
The tax credit would begin in 2024 and would be equal to 25% of the amount invested.
The bill could help restore and redevelop surface and underground mines and surrounding lands disturbed by coal extraction, especially those abandoned before the state established more regulations on mine reclamation in the 1940s.
• HB1106 would add state incentives to an influx of millions of dollars in federal funding for mine reclamation. In November, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced $122.5 million would be made available to states for grants through its Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program, which seeks to help return abandoned coal mines to productive uses and help the communities dependent on coal mines.
• House Bill 1132: Land use task force, author Rep. Kendell Culp (R-Rensselaer)
House Bill 1132 would establish a 13-member land use task force made up of business interests appointed by the governor and other elected officials. The task force would examine growth trends in communities across Indiana, economic and demographic factors that developers consider in siting projects, how communities can attract economic development, barriers to growth and areas where food insecurity exists.
The task force results could form the basis for future regulations that pare down the state’s environmental laws, which are often presented as economic barriers by industries like farming, home building and others.
• House Bill 1135: Electric vehicle compatible construction standards, author Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Indianapolis)
House Bill 1135 would require Class 2 structures, like townhouses or single-family dwellings, permitted after Dec. 31, 2023 to be designed, constructed and wired to enable the building occupant to charge an electric vehicle.
The text of bills introduced during the legislative session often changes, and more bills will be introduced. We’ll keep you up to date.