Posts filed under 'Environment'

IDEM reports to the EQSC

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.

Add comment October 13th, 2005

Stopping Sewage Overflows

overflowThe South Bend Tribune ran an article today that points to an interesting, if somewhat unsettling, internet resource. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has begun posting details of sewer overflows that happen across Indiana almost every time we have a good rainfall.

Most Hoosiers probably do not realize it, but almost one billion gallons of raw sewage overflows from sanitary systems into our streams, rivers, and lakes every year.

This is an expensive, but necessary, problem to remedy. Last year the legislature passed SB 260, which gave local governments some variances for overflows – provided they have a plan in place for fixing the problem.

Rebuilding sewer systems will cost the states billions of dollars in the long run, but threats to human health (and sanctions from the federal government) demand we take action. SB 260 is a step toward removing sewage from our waterways once and for all.

Add comment October 3rd, 2005

Renewable Energy in Indiana

biofuelsThe Environmental Quality Service Council (EQSC) met today to discuss the development of viable renewable energy sources in Indiana.

Our first guest was Andy Miller, Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. He discussed strategies for the development of “Bioenergy” in our state - specifically ethanol, and soy biodiesel. Of particular interest was the proposal for the state’s first “Bio-Town” - Reynolds, Indiana.

The people of Reynolds have agreed to take part in a long-term experiment that seeks to make the entire town energy self-sufficient. In cooperation with the Indiana Department of Agriculture, the US Department of Energy, and Purdue University, Reynolds will eventually be converting all of its gasoline, natural gas, and electric consumption to 100% renewable and locally-produced sources.

Another interesting group of presenters was a team of scientists from Purdue University. Representatives from the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering, the Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, the Energy Modeling Research Groups, and the Department of Agronomy discussed the latest research in ethanol and soy biodiesel, biofuel additives for jet engines, clean coal technology, and methane/methanol production from waste products.

Paul Pabor from Waste Management discussed his company’s landfill gas recovery systems. Vince Griffin from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce talked to the Council about energy production from waste tires.

Eric Holdsworth from the Edison Electric Institute also made a presentation on some of the key points of the 2005 Federal Energy Act, and the impact it could have on Indiana.

The EQSC makes a point of spending a great deal of time on complicated and technical matters that effect environmental policy. My goal as a memeber of the Council is to stay up-to-date on the latest science, research, and administrative regulations that impact the quality of our state’s environment. To see past minutes and agendas, visit the EQSC web page.

Add comment September 29th, 2005

County Council Denies Tondu Permit

The St. Joseph County Council has voted to deny the special use permit for the proposed Tondu coal gasification plant.

The final vote was 7-2.

The two “yes” votes were from Andrew Kostielney (R - District B), and Dale Devon (R - District C).

The “no” votes were from Randy Przbysz (D - District A), Rafael Morton (D - District D), Michael Kruk (D - District E), Dennis Schafer (R - District F), Mark Catanzarite (D - District G), Joseph A. Baldoni (D - District H), and Mark Root (R - District I).

If you are intereseted, you can access the District maps here.

The folks at Michiana Quality of Life worked to put together an impressive grass-roots effort on this issue.

(update: here)

September 22nd, 2005

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