Members of the Indiana General Assembly are at the Indiana Statehouse to begin their annual meeting to vote on and amend bills that could become the state’s newest legislation.
Some of the bills introduced could impact the state’s environment or help or prevent Hoosiers from improving their own environmental impacts.
• Senate Bill 33: Solar Panel Decommissioning and Disposal Study, Author Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus)
This bill requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to conduct a joint study on solar panel decommissioning and disposal in Indiana.
Solar panels and associated e-waste that have reached the end of their useful life are mainly shredded and thrown into landfills. There, when they decompose, they can release toxic substances into the environment, including silver, lead and chromium.
The study would examine how the state can provide a way to pay for the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels in Indiana, including charging fees, and determine how best to recycle or dispose of them and associated components.
• Senate Bill 91: Annual Inspection of CFOs, author Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell)
Senate Bill 91 requires a limited number of animal feed facility owners or operators to submit an annual report to the Indiana Department of Environmental Protection that includes information such as construction and maintenance details, the facility’s manure management plan, and environmental compliance procedures.
The bill could result in increased surveillance of indoor feed facilities, which are not currently under very close scrutiny by the state environmental agency. IDEM conducts at least one inspection, referred to as an initial compliance assistance visit, on new feed farms within the first year of operation. From then on, IDEM employees normally only carry out checks when complaints are made about a closed feeding facility.
Limited feeders and larger concentrated animal feeders have been identified as potential sources of recreational waterway disturbances such as E. coli bacteria and excess nutrients for more than 24,000 miles of Indiana rivers and streams.
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 passing ordinances or resolutions that ban or “have the effect” of banning the cultivation or raising of food. The bill would still allow homeowners associations to restrict 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 multi-stakeholder body that votes on the rules run by IDEM, to change the fees. The bill would also state that if the federal government designates an area of Indiana as in reachable, non-reachable, or unclassifiable under the Clean Air Act, the designation in Indiana under the state clean air statutes would become effective and enforceable on the date of the regulation. The board could also issue rules setting 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 reactor size to 350 megawatts, but SB 176 would allow up to 470 megawatts of power generation capacity.
Senate Bill 180: Allocation of Wastewater Utilization Costs, author Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford)
Senate Bill 180 would allow utilities that provide both water and sewage services in areas where the utility has acquired sewage utility properties to pass on utility property costs to their customers with approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The bill will most likely result in large water utilities like Indiana American Water recovering the costs by passing them on to customers. The company took over Charlestown’s water supply through the IURC in 2018 and opened a new treatment plant in September.
Charlestown officials are currently planning to build a new $40 million sewage treatment plant. It’s unclear if the company has plans to acquire this facility in the future, but Indiana American Water could recoup some of the cost of this acquisition through SB 180 rate changes.
The IURC currently regulates 66 water utilities that provide services to approximately 45% of the state’s residential water customers, including 24 sewage 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 managed by the Indiana Finance Authority, which already funds 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 townships with fewer than 50,000 residents.
A 2016 IFA state audit found that many service lines in Indiana are near or at the end of their useful life and need to be replaced, at a cost of $2.3 billion. The audit also found that even after water facilities are built or expanded, $815 million is needed annually to maintain utilities.
Along with aging, the effects of climate change such as more heat, more rain, and subsequent flooding have forced Hoosier communities to invest millions of dollars to keep up with the changes.
Communities across the state are currently requesting approximately $2.4 billion in funding from the IFA-operated State Revolving Fund Program for water infrastructure projects.
• House Bill 1068: Methamphetamine Production in Homes, Author Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie)
House Bill 1068 would require district clerks to record notices of properties used to manufacture methamphetamine and certificates of decontamination of those properties. Currently, reports are only required to be filed with the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Health and local health authorities.
According to the Indiana Department of Health, clandestine meth labs statewide pose a serious hazard to Hoosiers, including potential exposure to volatile solvents, caustics, reactive metals, and ephedrine/pseudoephedrine.
The state has standardized the drug lab cleaning process and provides property owners with a roster of qualified inspectors, reviews the inspectors’ work, accepts and rejects certificates of decontamination, and determines whether further testing or decontamination is required. However, property owners must decide if the properties they own are ultimately secure and move-in ready.
State records show that 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, provides a 5 cents per gallon tax credit to gas station owners who sell at least a 15 percent ethanol blend for vehicles. HB1080 also offers a 10 cents per gallon tax credit for gas station owners who sell biodiesel and an 18 cents per gallon tax credit for the sale of blended biodiesel.
The tax credits would start 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 to companies investing in coal mine reclamation and land adjacent to mines.
The tax credit would start in 2024 and would be 25% of the amount invested.
The bill could help restore and redevelop surface and underground mines and surrounding areas disturbed by coal mining, particularly those that were abandoned before the state enacted further mine rehabilitation regulations in the 1940s.
• HB1106 would add government incentives to an inflow of millions of dollars in federal funds for mine rehabilitation. In November, the US Department of the Interior announced that it would provide $122.5 million in federal grants under its Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization program, which aims to help bring abandoned coal mines back to productive use and those dependent on coal mines to help communities.
• House Bill 1132: Land use task force, author Rep. Kendell Culp (R-Rensselaer)
House Bill 1132 would create a 13-person land use task force composed 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 site projects, how communities can attract economic development, barriers to growth, and areas of food insecurity.
The task force’s findings could form the basis for future regulations that relax state environmental laws, which industries like agriculture, housing and others often portray as economic barriers.
• House Bill 1135: Design Standards Compatible with Electric Vehicles, Author Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Indianapolis)
House Bill 1135 would require Class 2 buildings, such as townhouses or single family homes, licensed after December 31, 2023 to be designed, constructed and wired to allow the building occupant to charge an electric vehicle.
The text of bills introduced during the legislature often changes and more bills are introduced. We’ll keep you up to date.