Posts filed under 'Environment'

EQSC Completes 2008 Meetings

The Environmental Quality Service Council (EQSC) has completed its 2008 meetings, and the final report should be available online soon.

I had the opportunity to serve as chairman of this interim study committee this year. We received some informative testimony about a range of important environmental and energy issues that the Legislature will be likely dealing with next year.

At our final meeting on October 8th, we were able to unanimously agree to the following recommendations for inclusion in the final report:

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure. The EQSC recommends that the General Assembly support an updated study on funding water and wastewater infrastructure needs through a variety of funding sources.

E-Waste. The EQSC looked at existing E-waste programs in Indiana and other states, including the distribution of costs and landfill bans. After hearing testimony, the EQSC recommends to the General Assembly expanding opportunities for E-waste recycling and looking at the roles of manufacturers, retailers, and consumers with the goal of making it more widespread and convenient.

Energy Code. The EQSC recommends that the General Assembly and the administration direct the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission to examine the Indiana Energy Code and look to updating the code with input from a broad group of stakeholders.

Green Building Standards. The EQSC recommends that the General Assembly find ways to encourage the adoption of green building standards, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Globe, or an equivalent standard, in publicly funded construction projects.

CAFOs. The General Assembly should adopt the confined feeding good character disclosure and enforcement requirements contained in SB 431-2007, amended to allow IDEM to consider a permit applicant’s compliance history outside the United States.

The recommendations do not include everything I would have liked to have seen, particularly regarding CAFOs and Green Building Standards. However, I think it is important the committee be unanimous in its recommendations, and this was the consensus we were able to reach.

I will post a link to the final report, which includes summaries of the testimony from each meeting, when it becomes available.

1 comment October 15th, 2008

What is a CAFO, and why should you care?

cafoIf you aren’t sure what exactly a CAFO is, or wonder what all the fuss about factory-scale farms is about, take a few minutes to read this new piece in Rolling Stone called “Pork’s Dirty Secret: The nation’s top hog producer is also one of America’s worst polluters”:

“Smithfield’s holding ponds — the company calls them lagoons — cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.”

The article goes into graphic detail, focusing on what the factory pork industry has done to the people of North Carolina:

“It was the biggest environmental spill in United States history, more than twice as big as the Exxon Valdez oil spill six years earlier. The sludge was so toxic it burned your skin if you touched it, and so dense it took almost two months to make its way sixteen miles downstream to the ocean. From the headwaters to the sea, every creature living in the river was killed. Fish died by the millions.”

Some of the most descriptive passages focus on the unique, toxic stench associated with large operations:

“I’ve probably smelled stronger odors in my life, but nothing so insidiously and instantaneously nauseating. It takes my mind a second or two to get through the odor’s first coat. The smell at its core has a frightening, uniquely enriched putridity, both deep-sweet and high-sour. I back away from it and walk back to the car but I remain sick — it’s a shivery, retchy kind of nausea — for a good five minutes.”

It’s important to recognize that the stench, pollution, and runoff from CAFO’s and similar industrial livestock operations are not the normal “farm smells” that most Hoosiers are very familiar with:

“We are used to farm odors,” says one local farmer. “These are not farm odors.” Sometimes the stink literally knocks people down: They walk out of the house to get something in the yard and become so nauseous they collapse. When they retain consciousness, they crawl back into the house.”

Governor Daniels has made development of factory farms in Indiana the centerpiece of his agricultural policy, and many communities across the state are struggling to cope with the science and politics of permitting new operations seeking to locate in their backyards.

The Indiana Department of Agriculture, with the Indiana Land Resouces Council, is currently conducting “listening sessions”to develop model local ordinances regarding land use and zoning to apply to factory farm operations, but the Department of Agriculture’s announcement of these meetings specifically points out that the “Indiana Land Resources Council will not consider a farmland preservation program or environmental regulations” as part of their recommendations.

Several bills dealing with CAFO’s have been filed this session (inculding HB1197 and SB447 ), and the topic was raised with IDEM Commissioner Easterly at our last Environmental Affairs committee meeting. The Commissioner said IDEM would support a policy of requiring local approval of CAFOs before IDEM issues its permits. However, he also felt it was currently too difficult to discern what exactly would constitute official “local approval.” That may be an area we are able to do some work on this session.

For more information, see:
Kemplog - day-to-day coverage of CAFO issues in Indiana
Grace Factory Farm Project - anti-CAFO
Farm Bureau - generally pro-CAFO, or anti-regulation
Journal of Extension - generally neutral research into all sorts of agricultural issues

12 comments January 21st, 2007

First week finished, and a Committee update

The first week of session has ended after a typically slow start. The filing deadline for legislation in the House is next Tuesday, and many bills are still stuck in drafting or having fiscal impact statements prepared. The most up-to-date list of filed bills in both the House and Senate can be accessed here.

Since many bills have yet to be assigned to committees, legislators typically use the first week seeking co-sponsors for their bills and working to shore up support for their proposals. Once all the bills have been published, the committee schedules will rapidly fill up.

I have scheduled an organizational meeting for the Environmental Affairs Committee next Wednesday. Commissioner Tom Easterly of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has agreed to appear and update the committee members on current IDEM projects, rulemaking, and legislative requests. The meeting will be broadcast live on the internet on Wednesday, January 17, 2006 at 10:30am. You will be able to access the webcast here (click on “Watch video from House Committee Room 156c”).

Let me know if you have any questions you would like the Committee to ask Commissioner Easterly.

2 comments January 11th, 2007

Environmental Crimes Task Force - Third Meeting

On April 27, 2006, the Environmental Crimes Task Force conducted its third meeting. The Task Force was created to re-draft Indiana’s current environmental crimes statute (IC 13-30-6-1), which simply creates a D felony for any knowing, intentional, or reckless violation of any Indiana environmental law.

As I mentioned in my discussion on the Task Force’s first meeting last year:

The concern is that the statute is so overly broad that it could be found unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine, the rule of lenity, and the fair notice requirement of due process.

In 2002, the Indiana Supreme Court in Healthscript, Inc. v. State (770 N.E.2d 810) found a Medicaid fraud statute unconstitutional on similar grounds. In fact, the environmental crimes statute would probably be considered even more broad and vague than the Medicaid statute that was overturned in Healthscript.

In fact, Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Commissioner Tom Easterly has now reported that those very issues have been raised by the defense in the Department’s two most recent attempts to prosecute environmental crimes.

The Task Force’s second meeting last year was mainly occupied with a review of Indiana criminal law for members who were not familiar with it, and a comprehensive look at other states’ environmental crimes statutes. You can read more about that meeting here.

Our third meeting was another opportunity for the Task Force to narrow down our options and take a more specific direction.

The issue of prosecutorial authority came up again at this meeting. Currently, elected prosecutors have primary jurisdiction to prosecute all criminal offenses. In some instances, other offices can provide assistance – such as Secretary of State help with securities fraud cases, and Attorney General assistance with Medicaid fraud.

Although there were some suggestions to give primary prosecutorial authority on environmental cases to some statewide office, in the end the Task Force seemed to agree that local prosecutors should retain their existing authority. We may end up recommending that attorneys or investigators from IDEM should be allowed to be deputized by local prosecutors that request their assistance in cases.

The Task Force also came to a consensus that the environmental crimes portion of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/Tit. XII) could serve as a decent model for our work. It is drafted as a modern criminal statue – spelling out the elements of specific crimes, and differentiating between levels of intent.

However, Illinois only focuses on hazardous waste issues. We have found that most state statutes in this area are fairly limited in scope – usually addressing only one or two types of possible environmental crimes. This is probably because these statutes are usually drafted in response to some particularly outrageous incident, involving one type of crime (like toxic waste dumping).

Since we are looking at creating our statute from scratch, Indiana has the opportunity to create one of the most modern and comprehensive environmental crimes statutes in the country. Task Force member Sue Shadley suggested enumerating specific crimes in categories that correspond to existing Indiana environmental law, such as air, water, solid waste, etc. Commissioner easterly suggested possibly including a separate category for drinking water to correspond with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

My focus thus far has been in trying to make sure our statute adheres to the elements of Indiana criminal law. Unlike other states, Indiana does not have any “negligent” crimes – only those that are knowing, intentional, or reckless.

It is important that we structure the statute to conform with existing criminal law – both to encourage prosecutors to make use of the statute, and to create a clear framework for the public to understand.

The Task Force’s next meeting is scheduled for June 22, 2006. At that time we will hear feedback from Illinois officials on how they feel about enforcement of their statute. We will also begin applying the basic framework of the Illinois statute to Indiana code, and adopt more specific elements of environmental crimes.

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or input on the Task Force’s progress.

Add comment June 9th, 2006

Continuing committee work on Senate bills

Most business in the House this week is taking place in the committees, as bills that have been sent over from the Senate are being considered.

Yesterday, the Environmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed two bills. SB 22 applies pipeline safety laws to hazardous liquids and carbon dioxide fluid, and SB 146 deals with property transfer disclosure forms.

environmental committeeA third bill, SB 234, was held over for a vote at the next committee meeting. The bill deals with several aspects of environmental rulemaking, but it needs a few technical amendments, and Chairman David Wolkins (R – Winona Lake) indicated he would like time to consider more possible amendments for the bill.

Today I will be working in two more committees. The Committee on Courts and Criminal Code has the following bills on the calendar:

    SB 5 – Makes disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral a Class D felony.
    SB 6 – Modifies several sex offense provisions, including lifetime parole and GPS monitoring for some offenders.
    SB 83 – Creates a mandatory D Felony for some classes of resisting law enforcement with a deadly weapon and some motor vehicle offenses resulting in death or injury.
    SB 168 – Allows a county prosecutor to refer some Medicaid related crimes to the Attorney General for prosecution.
    SB 246 – Expands definition of “sexually violent predator” among other issues. (This bill has been carried over from the last committee meeting and will be amended.)

Later in the afternoon, the Committee on Utilities and Energy will be considering these bills:

    SB 69 – Changes governance provisions of rural telephone cooperatives.
    SB 72 – Allows the IURC to meet in executive session in some instances.
    SB 353 – Creates several incentives and deductions for biodiesel and ethanol.

Some of the bills listed above may end up being held over for additional consideration, pending the outcome of committee discussion.

Add comment February 15th, 2006

Biomonitoring in Indiana – HB1289

biomonitoringFor more than 30 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has performed biomonitoring tests to directly measure individuals’ exposure to environmental contaminants. The National Biomonitoring Program’s analyses of human tissue, blood, hair, etc., have become the standard for assessing people’s exposure to toxic substances. It is a cutting-edge tool that delivers the most health-relevant assessments of exposure because it shows the amount of chemicals that actually get into people’s bodies – not just what someone might be exposed to.

This ongoing assessment of the U.S. population’s exposure to environmental chemicals is, according to the CDC, an essential component of the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.

To help bring the benefit of such analysis to Indiana citizens, I have introduced HB1289. This bill would establish a state program (in conjunction with the CDC) to monitor concentrations of toxic chemicals in individuals to address toxic pollution, and possible homeland security threats from chemical or biological attacks.

The bill establishes a Biomonitoring Advisory Panel (appointed by the Governor) to make recommendations concerning the design of the program, review the prioritization of the selection of certain chemicals or locations for biomonitoring activities, and review the dissemination of findings and reports. The members of the panel must include individuals who have expertise in public health, environmental science, environmental health, epidemiology, biology, toxicology, and endocrinology, and at least three of the members must be physicians.

As stated in the fiscal impact statement to HB1289, the oldest and probably best known biomonitoring initiative is the Childhood Lead Screening Program. The CDC’s 1976 biomonitoring study of lead levels in children’s blood ultimately resulted in the removal of lead additives from gasoline.

A 2003 article in Salon, entitled “What’s in your body’s chemical cocktail?,” addresses the history of biomonitoring, and its potential for the future:

It’s not exactly a new science: The first laboratory analyses of synthetic chemicals in breast milk were carried out back in the 1950s, and researchers have been testing people for high levels of contaminants such as DDT and lead for decades. But this early work focused on people who had obvious reasons to worry, such as those who’d been exposed to massive doses of toxins in accidents or on the job. Modern biomonitoring can suss out much lower levels of contamination, quantifying the chemical cocktail in us average Janes and Joes.

In July 2005, the CDC released its Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, a national biomonitoring study released every two years. The study found troubling levels of toxic chemicals, including metals, carcinogens and organic toxics like insecticides, in individuals across the country.

A 2004 study by the World Wildlife Fund’s Detox Campaign, entitled “Bad Blood,” took a unique approach and measured blood samples from 14 environemntal and health Ministers from 13 European Union countries. They were analysed for a total of 103 different man-made chemicals from 7 different chemical families - including organochlorine pesticides (including Dioxin and DDT), Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), perfluorinated chemicals, brominated flame retardants, and phthalates.

The report states:

The detection of at least 33 different chemicals in every person tested is very significant. Whilst many of the chemicals detected such as DDT, HCB and PCBs have been banned in Europe, several of the chemicals detected, such as phthalates, perfluorinated chemicals and certain flame retardants have not. This highlights that chemicals that have not been phased out are contaminating us to the same extent as older, banned chemicals.

It must be noted that those are from test results in Europe, which follows a “precautionary principle” where manufacturers must demonstrate that a product is safe before it is released. The US has no such standard. In fact, less thant 10% of the 75,000 industrial chemicals in use today in our country have been tested for their effects on humans.

I wonder what the results (and the reaction) would be if we did tests on government officials in Indiana?

After all, our fair state is ranked 9th in the country in total chemical releases covered under the Toxic Release Inventory. We are 8th in the nation in air releases, and 2nd in the nation in water releases. Disturbingly, Indiana is also ranked 4th in the nation in cancer risk.

Not encouraging for someone planning on starting a family, St. Joseph County is ranked 5th in the state among counties releasing recognized reproductive contaminants into the air.

(Another problem on the federal level is the proposed curtailment of information supplied to the Toxic Release Inventory.)

A 2004 article entitled “Chemical Danger” appeared in the eminent UK medical journal, The Lancet. It stated:

Chemicals could be the next tobacco for the World Health Organization (WHO)… There are thousands of artificial chemicals floating around in each individual and… Far from being harmless, as the chemical industry protests, these substances have been linked to several diseases—and children are particularly at risk. “We know these chemicals are contributing to disease in children. This is not speculation. It’s fact”, says Philip Landrigan, Chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

Biomonitoring can help address these issues by applying a scientific framework to them. Documenting exposure, facilitating health impact studies, prioritizing safety assessments of chemicals, and identifying sources of exposure are within our reach. Indiana should take the lead in this area and establish a biomonitoring program.

As the CDC says:

By improving laboratory methods to measure selected chemicals in people; preventing health effects from exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, and responding to terrorism and public health emergencies involving chemicals, the laboratory has been in the vanguard of efforts to improve people’s health across the nation and around the world.

To view the CDC’s excellent presentation on the subject, entitled “Biomonitoring: Making a Difference”, go here and click on “view the presentation.”

Add comment January 16th, 2006

Industrial air pollution in Indiana

air pollutionSeveral papers have run stories over the last week highlighting the dangerous levels of air pollution in our state. As reported in the Louisville Courier Journal:

The AP analyzed records from the Environmental Protection Agency, which tracked air releases reported by industrial plants to calculate health risk scores for every community across the country. The scores are based on the amount of toxic pollution released, the path the pollution takes as it spreads through the air and the danger each chemical poses to people.

The report is disturbing in its implications. Among the specific findings are:

    - Indiana ranks fourth in the nation for the health risks its residents face from exposure to industrial air pollution.
    - In Indiana, 222 census tracts in 31 counties were ranked among the nation’s worst 5 percent for air pollution-related health risks.
    - Minorities are one and a half times more likely to live in communities where air pollution leads to serious health problems.

The story says the Indiana Manufacturing Association “cautioned that air data can be misinterpreted and can be affected by human reporting errors or unrelated medical conditions.”

While it is true that some air data can be misinterpreted, it can also be a good indicator of future problems. I am attempting to address this situation in one of the bills I am introducing this year. Once I get the bill draft, I will post more about my idea and potential ways to address the problem of industrial air pollution.

Add comment December 19th, 2005

More on the Envirnonmental Crimes Task Force

Bigeastern has posted some feedback on my previous post on the Environmental Crimes Task Force:

My opinion: remediation is no more a cure for a criminal environmental offense than it is for a bank robber, and often less so. If a bank robber pays the money back (after getting caught, of course) everybody is pretty much squared up. When an industry releases carcinogenic chemicals, how do you ‘remediate’ the people who’ve been exposed? Environmental crimes are intended to act as deterrents, especially for wrongful acts that might be highly profitable and difficult to detect. I would suggest that environmental crimes are no different than any other. The mere fact the person responsible — the criminal — may have a nice home, wear a fashionable suit, and play golf at the right country club doesn’t change a thing any more than it does for any other ‘white-collar’ crime.

Let me know if you have any input on the process that you would like to share.

Add comment December 12th, 2005

Environmental Crimes Task Force – Second Meeting

toxicThe Environmental Crimes Task Force (ECTF) held its second meeting this week. As I have written about in an earlier post, the ECTF was established to review Indiana’s environmental crimes statue (IC 13-30-6-1) and make recommendations for legislation to revise it - including a set of specific statutory standards for determining criminal violations.

On the agenda for this meeting was an overview of Indiana criminal law (pdf) and a summary of how other states handle the prosecution of environmental crimes. The state-by-state prosecution summary (pdf) was prepared by task force member Gordon Durnil, whose service under President George H. W. Bush highlighted his credentials as a conservative environmentalist – an often overlooked political position.

The task force then reviewed existing criminal statutes from other states to prepare for our work on determining Indiana’s specific needs.

A substantive discussion on the consideration of criminal penalties focused on the rationales for punishment. Some members expressed the opinion that violations of mere promulgated rules should focus more on restoration of damage caused, or forfeiture of profit gained through violations of rules, as in disgorgement. Others felt that any criminal statue would necessarily deal with more serious violations that would merit more serious punishment.

Mark Stuann suggested adopting a framework for the task force’s work that would set three priorities: 1) determine who should have prosecuting authority for environmental crimes; 2) determine specific environmental crimes and their elements; and 3) determine penalties for the specific crimes.

Chairman Kenley agreed this would be a practical framework to adopt. We then discussed working it into a timetable that would result in draft legislation being ready for presentation to the Environmental Quality Service Council by late summer 2006, and a potential bill filing for the 2007 legislative session.

With the upcoming legislative session approaching, the task force will be unable to meet until Spring. The next meeting is scheduled for the end of April, with proposed meetings every month or two after that.

I have already received some constituent feedback on this process, and would be glad to obtain more. Feel free to let me know if you have something you would like to contribute to this process.

2 comments December 9th, 2005

EQSC adopts final report

The Environmental Quality Service Council (EQSC) held its final meeting of the year on Wednesday. The Council adopted a final report, which included recommendations on several areas of environmental policy.

eqsc

The final report has not yet been posted, but I have uploaded a draft version of the report and made it available here (the highlighted portions are additions from Wednesday’s meeting).

One of the most significant recommendations deals with the mercury switch problem that I discussed in an earlier entry:

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 Council essentially endorsed the concept of a state “bounty” system to pay for the collection of mercury switches from scrap yards. Exactly how the bounty will be funded - and by whom - is an issue that will be hashed out in the Legislature. Other states have required automobile manufacturers whose cars contained mercury switches to contribute to their collection programs.

Another recommendation was to improve the practices of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) - including the possibility of requiring financial assurance bonding. Indiana CAFO issues have been covered extensively at Kemplog, if you would like to do further reading on the subject.

The report also includes a recommendation for the Governor to establish a Sustainable Energy Commission to examine the potential long-term impacts of alternative energy and energy efficiency. The recommendation mirrors some of the policy contained in HB 1642 that was introduced by Representative Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) in the last session.

I look forward to working on these and other environmental issues in the upcoming session. As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let me know.

Add comment October 27th, 2005

ND research results in possible CSO fix

I have posted before about the costs associated with fixing Combined Sewer Overflows. Today’s South Bend Tribune has a very interesting story about one approach that could dramatically reduce those costs:

ND researchers could save South Bend millions

Jeffrey Talley, assistant professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame… is leading a research effort, using South Bend’s sewer system as his laboratory, that would use a network of embedded wireless sensors inside sewer pipes to measure water levels during wet weather. If a pipe fills up with rain or melted snow, the sensor would send a radio message alerting a “smart valve” to open and send water into other pipes with more room.

Talley said he has been contacted by cities from around the world, including Paris, New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. Initially he was inundated with e-mails and was receiving 15 calls a day from people wanting to learn more… One of those inquiries came from Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc., which is negotiating with the University of Notre Dame to license the patent for the process and commercialize it. Brad Van Meter, municipal utilities solutions manager with the company, said he sees a potential $1 trillion world market for the process.

I have followed the progress of this research for a while now, after being briefed on it by the City of South Bend last year.

It is a clear demonstration of the potential benefits of a society strongly invested in research and development. Hopefully, more advanced technologies like this will result from the proposed South Bend technology park that I discussed in a previous post.

Add comment October 25th, 2005

Environmental Crimes Task Force - First Meeting

envirocrimesThe Environmental Crimes Task Force held its first meeting on Thursday, October 13, 2005. The Task Force is chaired by Senator Luke Kenley, who sponsored the enabling legislation – Senate Enrolled Act 195.

Indiana’s environmental crimes statute (IC 13-30-6-1) is the topic under consideration by the committee. The law now simply allows a D felony to be charged for any intentional, knowing, or reckless violation of any Indiana environmental law. The concern is that the statute is so overly broad that it could be found unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine, the rule of lenity, and the fair notice requirement of due process.

In 2002, the Indiana Supreme Court in Healthscript, Inc. v. State (770 N.E.2d 810) found a Medicaid fraud statute unconstitutional on similar grounds. In fact, the environmental crimes statute would probably be considered even more broad and vague than the Medicaid statute that was overturned in Healthscript .

The initial challenge will be determining the scope of the Task Force’s job. The first meeting was devoted to examining other states’ environmental crimes statutes, and figuring out just how much education the Task Force members need on the issues of environmental code and criminal law before beginning the meat of the work.

We have until November of 2007 to make a recommendation to the Environmental Quality Service Council (of which I am also a member). Ideally, that recommendation would be draft legislation with bipartisan support.

This will be a long-term project that involves a good deal of public testimony from all sectors before a consensus can be reached that will withstand constitutional muster.

Feel free to let me know if you have any input you would like to offer on this topic.

3 comments October 18th, 2005

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