IDEM reports to the EQSC

October 13th, 2005

eqscThe Environmental Quality Service Council (EQSC) convened yesterday to hear testimony from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) on their updated “Strategic Issues,” legislative recommendations for the 2006 session, and a status report on the dedicated funds collected and administered by the agency.

IDEM Commissioner Easterly cited Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and non-attainment with air quality standards as the two most important issues facing the agency.

As I discussed in an earlier post, CSOs present a serious health risk and financial challenge to many areas of the state. IDEM’s main concern at this point is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reluctant to approve individual Long Term Control Plans without an enforceable document in place. Currently, only one of the seven IDEM-approved plans is incorporated into an acceptable Agreed Order, but the remaining LTCPs are in the process of being incorporated into enforcement documents.

Air quality is also a major concern because 1.2 million Hoosiers are living in counties that do not meet air quality standards. Particulate matter, ozone, and other pollutants can contribute to increasing rates of childhood asthma, lung disease, and cancers.

Some progress is being made, though. Recent measurements put most counties back into federal air quality compliance, and so far in 2005, only one monitor (Noblesville in Hamilton County) has exceeded the ozone standard.

Commissioner Easterly also reported on progress in the confusion surrounding enforcement reporting. Saying, “we have a data management mess,” he acknowledged the public’s frustration and said improvements were being made to their internal systems to ensure transparency.

IDEM will also be seeking legislative support for a statutory implementation of the “Performance Track” program (which is currently in rulemaking), and some solution to the mercury switches issue.

Mercury switches were discussed by EQSC earlier this summer. Essentially, the problem is that car manufacturers included motion-activated switches in automobiles (like the switches under your hood and trunk that turn on lights when you lift them) for many years. Although most of these switches are no longer included in cars, the mercury from them ends up in scrap steel. This scrap steel is melted down by steel manufacturers, and pumped back in to the atmosphere.

Many other states are dealing with this problem, and the issue always comes down to who covers the cost of reclamation from the scrap yards – car manufacturers, steel recyclers, the scrap yard operator, or the state taxpayers.

The EQSC will likely endorse addressing this problem generally, but the specific solution will have to be hammered out in the next legislative session.

IDEM also made a report on the 16 largest dedicated funds they administer. These range from lead and asbestos abatement, to waste tire management and underground fuel tank clean-up.

The report was about 100 un-numbered pages of fairly detailed accounting. I requested that IDEM make a copy available to the public on their website – so you may eventually be able to find a copy there.

The EQSC has only one meeting remaining, at which we will discuss potential policy recommendations to the Legislature.

Entry Filed under: Environment

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