Members of the state Legislature 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 have a direct effect on the state’s environment or help or impede Hoosiers from improving their own effect on the environment.

Senate Bill 65

Free state park admission for veterans
Author(s): Sens. Jack Sandlin, James Tomes, Scott Baldwin

This bill would require the Department of Natural Resources to admit veterans with proof of service to state parks, recreational areas or day facilities controlled by the department without being charged an admission fee. If passed, the bill would mirror the National Park Service program that gives veterans and Gold Star families free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and forests across the U.S.

Senate Bill 85

Drainage task force
Author: Sen. Jean Leising

This bill, authored by farm owner and travel agent Sen. Jean Leising, would establish a 17-member task force to review the responsibilities of landowners and state and local authorities under current laws relating to the drainage of land, including state and federal wetland regulations. 

The task force would comprise six members chosen by leaders of the Indiana Senate and six chosen by leaders of the Indiana House of Representatives. The governor would appoint an employee of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, a member of a county drainage board, a representative of the Indiana chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers Inc. and a representative of a statewide farm organization.

The task force’s job would be to determine whether authority over drainage matters has shifted from county to state authorities, whether drainage laws are “yielding to conservation and pollution control objectives” and how Indiana’s balance of authority over drainage matters compares to that of neighboring states.

The task force would issue a report on its findings by Dec. 1, 2023.

The findings from the task force could set the scene for future legislation on drainage issues. 

Lawmakers previously repealed many of the state’s protections of isolated wetlands during the 2021 Legislative Session through Senate Enrolled Act 389

The law eliminated protections for Class I wetlands, smaller, less obvious wetlands that are sometimes temporary. Class I wetlands make up about half of all wetlands in the state. The law left in place protections for Class III wetlands and weakened Class II protections.

The law is a boon for farmers and land developers, who argued that the protections were costly to them. The repeal of wetland protections could ultimately cost taxpayers millions of dollars to replicate the functions of the potential wetland lost to development. 

The law also established a wetlands task force, which will review wetland science and state and federal wetland laws. A report is due Nov. 1.

Future legislation could seek to repeal the remaining wetland protections, including Class II wetland permitting requirements. 

Senate Bill 122

Annual inspection of CFOs
Author: Sen. Rick Niemeyer

Senate Bill 122 would require the owner or operator of a confined feeding operation to submit an annual report to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on the operation of the CFO and any satellite manure storage structure associated with the CFO.

The bill would also require IDEM to conduct onsite inspections of CFOs to verify the information contained in the report.

Currently, IDEM engineers review the CFO design and the agency conducts inspections before and during the construction of new buildings and manure storage structures. According to IDEM, new farms will be inspected at least once in their first year of operation and the agency will conduct “routine and complaint-based inspections” afterward.

Senate Bill 127

Study of low-carbon and green industries
Author: Sen. Timothy Lanane

This bill would require the Indiana University Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs to assess the potential for the development of low-carbon and green industries in Indiana and the job creation, economic growth, and wealth generation that could result for Indiana communities from the development of these industries. The school would have to report the results of its assessment by Dec. 1.

Senate Bill 147

Underground pumped storage hydropower
Author: Sen. Eric Koch

Indiana law allows regulated electric utilities to qualify for financial incentives if they meet specific targets for including “clean energy resources” in their generation and supply portfolios.

The bill would add underground pumped storage hydropower from abandoned coal mines, abandoned quarries or other suitable sites in Indiana to the list of sources that qualify as “clean energy resources” for financial incentives for energy utilities.

Underground pumped storage hydropower works by allowing water pumped into an upper reservoir to flow to a lower reservoir, turning a turbine that produces electrical power.

Projects in CaliforniaNew York and many other states and countries have begun using underground pumped storage hydropower.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is currently creating a program to disburse $4.7 billion in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding for states to establish grant programs for orphan well site plugging, remediation and other restoration activities.

Indiana is one of 26 states that have expressed interest in the program. Funding could allow old oil and gas wells to be used for clean energy. 

Senate Bill 153

Annual customer reports by utilities
Author: Sen. Jean Breaux

Senate Bill 153 would require individual utility companies to submit annual reports on information like the number of customers they have, how much customers paid, how many delinquencies they had and other delinquency and disconnection information.

The reports could help lawmakers and state regulators learn more about the energy situation faced by Hoosiers.

Researchers from Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs found that nearly 4.8 million low-income American households were unable to pay an energy bill during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At least 15.5% of Hoosiers reported being unable to pay their energy bill at least once in the last 12 months, and 1 in 4 Hoosiers reported having to forgo necessary expenses like medicine or food in order to pay an energy bill. 

With energy shortfalls expected later this year, even more, people could face energy insecurity issues as energy becomes more expensive.

Senate Bill 170

Pension investments in fossil fuel companies
Author: Sen. Shelli Yoder

Senate Bill 170 would require the board of trustees of the Indiana Public Retirement System to divest investments and investment products in a company that is publicly traded and identified as one of the 200 largest reserve-owning fossil fuel companies based on the number of carbon emissions in a company's oil, gas and coal reserves. 

The bill also requires the system to submit a report to the interim study committee on pension management oversight and the budget committee on or before Nov. 1 of each year through 2029. 

The IPRS manages $36.9 billion in assets for more than 467,000 members from public universities, school corporation municipalities and state agencies.

A similar proposal failed to advance beyond the committee level last year.

Senate Bill 176

Agricultural land used for wind or solar energy
Author: Sen. Jean Leising

Senate Bill 176 would require the interim study committee on energy, utilities and telecommunication to compile a yearly report on utility-grade wind and solar energy facilities that include the number of facilities, their generating capacity, how much agricultural land is used for renewable energy systems and more information. 

The report would be due by Oct. 1 every year.

Senate Bill 186

DNR Omnibus
Author: Sen. Susan Glick

Senate Bill 186 is an omnibus bill that makes various changes to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The introduced bill seeks to eliminate and rename divisions and bureaus that have been merged due to DNR reorganization and establish the Indiana state park inns authority as a body corporate and politic for the operation, management, and administration of inns and associated facilities by the department. 

The bill would also make changes to hunting license requirements by including a crossbow and bolt in the licensure for archery equipment permitted to be used. 

The bill could be amended to include other DNR changes as it moves through the Legislature.

Senate Bill 248

Distributed energy generation
Author: Sen. Liz Brown

Senate Bill 248 amends Indiana code to refine the definition of excess distributed generation, or net metering, as “the kilowatt-hours of electricity that are generated by a customer that produces distribute generation and supplied back to the customer’s electricity supplier to the customer as netter over the monthly billing period.”

The bill would also set the regulations for setting the rate for net metering compensation.

Senate Bill 255

Climate and environmental justice task force
Author: Sen. Ron Alting

Senate Bill 255 would establish a 17-member Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force to develop a climate action plan for the state and ensure that marginalized and low-income communities most affected by climate change are given priority for economic benefits and opportunities as a result of the plan.

The task force would be made up of members of the Indiana General Assembly, business representatives, electric utility representatives, researchers from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute and others. 

Senate Bill 265

Carbon sequestration pilot project
Author: Sen. Jon Ford

Senate Bill 265 reauthorizes the Wabash Valley Resources LLC and Honeywell UOP carbon sequestration and hydrogen production pilot project in West Terre Haute.

The bill also includes legal protections for the operations that would only allow persons that claim actual interference with the reasonable use of their property or direct and tangible physical damage to personal property to file civil actions against the project. 

The project was first authorized by the Indiana General Assembly in 2019, but the company has not yet received a Class VI underground injection permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a requirement for the carbon sequestration to commence.

Company representatives have testified that hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the project are dependent on the company receiving additional legal protections. 

Senate Bill 272

Wastewater infrastructure
Author: Sen. Eric Koch, Sen. Ed Charbonneau

Senate Bill 272 codifies the Indiana Finance Authority's role as the executive branch coordinator for funding related to water, wastewater, or stormwater infrastructure and systems.

The bill would also establish a water and wastewater infrastructure research and extension program to provide data collection, training and technical assistance for water system issues.

Senate Bill 278

Indiana geological and water survey advisory council
Author: Sen. Andy Zay

Senate Bill 278 would require the president of Indiana University to appoint a geological and water survey advisory council and develop institutes to study water resources and reliable energy. 

Senate Bill 288

Eminent domain by public utilities
Author: Sen. Brian Buchanan

Senate Bill 288 makes changes to the way land can be acquired for use by utility companies through eminent domain.

The bill makes changes to the notice and acquisition offers presented to affected Hoosiers and sets separate notice and acquisition procedures for pipeline companies seeking land acquisition through eminent domain. 

House Bill 1013

State Fossil
Author: Rep. Randall Frye

House Bill 1013 would designate the mastodon as the official state fossil of Indiana. Mastodon fossils have been found in nearly every county in the state. Mastodons were ancient elephant ancestors that were smaller than mammoths, another elephant relative. Mastodons became extinct more than 10,000 years ago.

House Bill 1019

Dead and dying trees
Author: Rep. Thomas Saunders

House Bill 1019 would require county weed control boards to remove dead or dying trees from property owned, leased, or controlled by a county, municipality, or township under certain conditions. The board would pay for the removal. 

The bill also grants liability immunity for local governments for failing to remove a dead or dying tree that falls on a roadway controlled by that government. 

House Bill 1025

Septic system inspection and well water testing
Author: Rep. Mike Aylesworth

This bill would require homeowners to get their residential septic systems inspected before transferring ownership of the home after June 30, 2023. 

House Bill 1025 would allow potential homebuyers to void the sale of a home, even after closing of the transaction, if the person selling the home does not get the septic system inspected before the sale or does not disclose septic system failure. 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, more than 800,000 onsite sewage disposal systems are currently used in Indiana.

House Bill 1036

Watershed development commissions
Author: Rep. Mike Aylesworth

This bill would give county executives the authority to enact ordinances to designate their counties as members of a watershed development commission and gives the Indiana Department of Natural Resources the process through which it could certify the resulting commission. 

If approved, the commission would then be able to raise money to mitigate flooding, enhance drainage and address other water infrastructure needs. 

Aynesworth introduced a similar bill last year, but it was transformed into legislation recognizing the gaming rights of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

House Bill 1054

Hunting season for disabled veterans
Author: Rep. David Abbott

The bill would allow critically disabled veterans to hunt on the same free hunting days as those designated for youth hunters by the director of the Department of Natural Resources. 

House Bill 1063

De novo judicial review of agency action
Author: Rep. Chris Jeter

This bill seeks to prevent state legislators from adopting requirements or imposing penalties that are harsher than those established by federal law.

In effect, this could make it difficult for the state to make laws for Indiana-specific problems, including environmental or health and safety matters by relying on the federal government to make legislation that affects the state. 

House Bill 1063 would also upend the judicial reviews of actions by state agencies by giving courts the power to decide the legality of those actions based on the evidence presented in the review without any regard to how other courts or the agency decided previous similar cases.

Instead of the burden of proof of the validity on an agency action resting on the party bringing the case, the bill would force an agency to prove that its action was valid in every judicial review case.

That could, in effect, force agencies to defend the same action in court multiple times.

The bill could have a chilling effect on actions the state takes to protect human health and the environment.

The bill’s author, Rep. Chris Jeter, is a founding partner at the law firm Massillamany Jeter & Carson LLP, an agency that has brought legal challenges to many state agencies since 2015. Jeter was previously an associate attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, where, according to his company biography, “his practice focused primarily on defending large companies, banks and financial institutions in commercial litigation, products liability and other high-dollar legal matters.”

House Bill 1101

Publication of public notices
Author: Rep. Edward Clere

The bill would allow the Indiana Office of Technology to operate a website where state and private entities can post public notices.

If the bill succeeds, more Hoosiers could be made aware of environmental matters happening where they live.

Currently, public notices are mainly published in the classified sections of local newspapers operating near where the notice is needed. The entities needing to post the notice often must pay to display the notice.

The bill would set a $0.12 per word basic charge for publishing public notices, but publications would be allowed to increase the rate under certain conditions.

IDEM publishes public notices about its rulemaking activities in the state and requires that public and private entities publish public notices when applying for environmental permits and other matters. 

House Bill 1103

Department of Natural Resources
Author: Rep. Sean Eberhart

This bill would, among other things, eliminate the commercial fishing provision and commercial fishing license for Lake Michigan. A person would not be allowed to take fish from the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan with commercial fishing gear.

The bill would also repeal the mussels license issued by DNR, establish a fee to fund the regulation of underground petroleum storage, make changes to the state’s timber regulations and other DNR matters.

House Bill 1111

Utility regulatory commission reporting and rules
Author: Rep. Ed Soliday

This bill would order the interim study committee on energy, utilities and telecommunications to prepare a yearly report on commission operations, information on energy industry trends, the modernization status for energy utility facilities in Indiana, changes in the state’s electricity generation mix and other energy matters. 

The report would also include similar information for water and wastewater utilities, communication services and pipeline safety.

The reports would be due by Oct. 1 every year.

House Bill 1136

Eminent domain by public utilities
Author: Rep. Robert Cherry

House Bill 1172 makes changes to the way land can be acquired for use by utility companies through eminent domain.

The bill makes changes to the notice and acquisition offers presented to affected Hoosiers and sets separate notice and acquisition procedures for pipeline companies seeking land acquisition through eminent domain. 

House Bill 1184

Regulation of PFAS contaminants
Author: Rep. Ryan Dvorak

House Bill 1184 would require the Indiana State Department of Health to establish state maximum contaminant levels for PFAS chemicals in water provided by public water systems.

There is currently no limit at either the federal or state level for the amount of PFAS chemicals that can be found in state waterways.

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s to produce industrial products resistant to water, oil, grease and stains. The products are mostly known by their brand names, like Teflon, Gore-Tex, Scotchgard and many others.

PFAS chemicals have been linked to a series of adverse health conditions, including an increased risk of developing kidney and testicular cancer, increased blood cholesterol levels, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia and decreased vaccine response in children. 

Preliminary results from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s first phase of testing of community water systems for PFAS chemicals indicate the presence of the chemicals in the treated water of at least two community water systems

House Bill 1186

Fertilizer runoff and Lake Michigan discharges
Author: Rep. Ryan Dvorak

House Bill 1186 amends the water pollution control law to prohibit fertilizer runoff into Indiana waterways.

If the bill passes, after June 30, 2024, a person may not dispose of or cause the disposal of organic or inorganic matter that causes or contributes to water pollution in any of the streams or waters of Indiana.

House Bill 1196

Homeowners associations and solar power
Author: Rep. Mike Speedy

House Bill 1196 would prevent homeowners associations, except under specified instances, from prohibiting a homeowner from installing a solar energy system, impose “unreasonable” limitations on the use or installation of the system or require the removal of a solar energy system that has already been installed.

House Bill 1200

Repeal of supplemental fee on electric vehicles
Author: Rep. Mike Andrade

House Bill 1200 would repeal the supplemental registration fees imposed on electric and hybrid vehicles. The state-approved a yearly $150 supplemental fee for electric vehicles and a yearly $50 fee for hybrids in 2017.

House Bill 1201

Radon testing in school buildings
Author: Rep. Mike Andrade

House Bill 1201 requires the person or entity having authority over a public school building to test for radon in the lowest level of the school building before Jan. 1, 2025, and report the test results to the Indiana State Department of Health. 

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

ISDH would be required to record the test results in a database and use the information to reduce the health risks of radon for Hoosiers.

House Bill 1209

Carbon sequestration projects
Author: Rep. Ed Soliday

This bill sets the procedure for establishing carbon sequestration projects in Indiana.

Carbon capture and sequestration is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from polluters like coal-fired power plants, turning the carbon dioxide into a liquid and injecting it deep into the earth.

So far, carbon sequestration projects in the U.S. have proven largely ineffective in solving the climate crisis, and critics say these types of projects extend the life of fossil fuel facilities, a major driver of climate change.

The 15 carbon sequestration facilities that currently exist in the U.S. have only been able to capture 9,900 tons yearly out of the 5.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

House Bill 1221

Electric vehicles and electricity pricing
Author: Rep. Ed Soliday

Establishes how utilities can charge for electric vehicle charging and a pilot program for infrastructure for public use for electric vehicles.

House Bill 1226

Solid waste matters
Author: Rep. Mike Speedy

House Bill 1226 establishes the Central Indiana Waste Diversion Pilot Project, a project to collect potentially valuable recyclable materials before they are sent to landfills and waste incinerators. 

The project would allow central Indiana municipalities to test out municipal waste programs that would collect valuable items with recyclable raw materials.

House Bill 1249

Carbon sequestration project
Author: Rep. David Abbott

House Bill 1249 reauthorizes the Wabash Valley Resources LLC and Honeywell UOP carbon sequestration and hydrogen production pilot project in West Terre Haute.

The bill also includes legal protections for the operations that would only allow persons that claim actual interference with the reasonable use of their property or direct and tangible physical damage to personal property to file civil actions against the project. 

The project was first authorized by the Indiana General Assembly in 2019, but the company has not yet received a Class VI underground injection permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a requirement for the carbon sequestration to commence.

Company representatives have testified that hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the project are dependent on the company receiving additional legal protections. 

House Bill 1250

Community solar facility program
Author: Rep. Sue Errington

House Bill 1250 would require electric utility companies that are not municipally owned or belong to a rural electric membership corporation to establish at least five community solar facilities every two years that will serve households with low to moderate incomes.

The five facilities will be required to provide at least 25 megawatts of energy or enough to power between 10,000 and 22,500 homes. Customers would be able to pay for and receive a specific amount of electricity generated by the facilities. 

House Bill 1253

Old forest areas in state forests
Author: Rep. Chris May

House Bill 1253 would require the Indiana Department of Natural Resource to designate one area comprising at least 10% of each state forest as an “old forest area” protected from being cut down for timber.

The protection would allow scientists to study how trees respond naturally to stresses and how they compare to areas of the forest where logging is allowed. The old forest areas would remain open for recreational uses.

House Bill 1276

PFAS chemical blood testing program
Author: Rep. Maureen Bauer

House Bill 1276 establishes a PFAS chemical blood testing program for firefighters within the Indiana State Department of Health.

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s to produce industrial products resistant to water, oil, grease and stains. The products are mostly known by their brand names, like Teflon, Gore-Tex, Scotchgard and many others.

PFAS has also been used to manufacture aqueous film-forming foam and other firefighting foam to extinguish fires caused by flammable and combustible liquids like gas, oil, grease and solvents.

The chemicals are useful, but have been linked to a series of adverse health conditions, including an increased risk of developing kidney and testicular cancer, increased blood cholesterol levels, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia and decreased vaccine response in children. 

The Indiana General Assembly banned the use of PFAS foam during firefighter training in 2020. The state has also launched a voluntary program to collect PFAS firefighting foam from fire stations around the state.

House Bill 1280

Air pollution
Author: Rep. Justin Moed

House Bill 1280 would require the state Environmental Rules Board to adopt rules to establish when an odor nuisance exists and identify “practical and economically feasible” methods of eliminating odor nuisances at their source.

The bill gives the board the option of choosing one or more methods of determining whether an odor nuisance exists, including adopting the European Union’s method for making that determination, setting limits on certain industrial compounds associated with offensive odors or establishing an “odor panel” of people living near a facility suspected of causing an odor nuisance. 

The determination would allow the state to issue the offending facility a civil penalty or sue to compel the company to eliminate the odor nuisance.

House Bill 1287

Climate change commission
Author: Rep. Carey Hamilton

House Bill 1287 establishes the Indiana Climate Change and Resilience Commission, a 13-member commission that would study climate change impacts on Indiana and resilience and carbon mitigation policies. 

The commission would also develop recommendations for policies that encourage renewable energy growth, resilience measures, projected impacts to the state’s agriculture and the growth of the clean energy manufacturing sector. The commission would also be required to develop plans for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and waste reduction.

House Bill 1288

Supplemental fee on electric and hybrid vehicles
Author: Rep. Carey Hamilton

House Bill 1288 seeks to repeal the supplemental fees to register an electric or hybrid vehicle in the state. The state-approved a yearly $150 supplemental fee for electric vehicles and a yearly $50 fee for hybrids in 2017.

The text of bills introduced during the legislative session often changes, and more bills will be introduced. We'll keep you up to date.

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