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  • Christine Glaser

Indiana’s 2023 Legislative Session: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Indiana’s legislative session came to an end in the early morning hours of April 28. While our state representatives and senators completed their work, the bills still had to move on to Gov. Holcomb to either be signed or vetoed. There were some bills in that pipeline for about a week after the session ended, and we tightly held onto hope that the bills we considered to be less favorable would be vetoed.

Looking back and moving forward on coal ash

Indiana has more coal ash ponds than any other state, and despite our best efforts, this has been a disappointing session when it comes to addressing this important problem.

HB 1623 was one of these bills in the governors’ pipeline. This bill includes a provision that will prevent the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) from developing coal ash regulations that are more stringent than the EPA’s federal rule, which contains many legal loopholes and weaknesses. We at Faith in Place Action Fund, along with our partners, sent out Action Alerts asking our networks to contact the governor and encourage him to veto the bill—unfortunately, to no avail.

Earlier in the session we advocated for two coal ash bills—SB 399, authored by Sen. Rodney Pol and Sen. Susan Glick, and HB 1190, authored by Rep. Pat Boy. Both bills aimed to close some of the loopholes and weaknesses of the EPA’s 2015 Coal Ash Rule. Unfortunately, these two bills did not even receive a hearing in committee.

On a more positive note, however, the U.S. EPA issued its new draft rule on coal ash that addresses some of the largest loopholes in the 2015 rule—so-called “legacy ponds” that were closed before 2015 and did not fall under the 2015 rule. Once this updated coal ash rule is finalized, Indiana will have to comply with it.

Moving forward, we have an opportunity to support the EPA’s attempt to strengthen its coal ash rule. When an agency like the EPA issues a draft rule, this includes a public comment period and public hearings, which are great opportunities for advocacy.

You will hear more about this draft rule from us soon. Watch out for more opportunities to take action to move Indiana forward by addressing coal ash pollution of our air and water.

Looking back and moving forward on community solar

We were again disappointed that no community solar bill was introduced this year in the House or the Senate. However, Rep. Sue Errington made an attempt to add community solar legislation to another bill as an amendment during a House session, on the very day that Faith in Place and other groups supporting community solar were at the Indiana Statehouse for our big Renewable Energy Day. Unfortunately, this amendment was voted down.

Our major investor-owned utilities don’t like community solar, because it would save consumers money and cut into the unities’ profits. Thus, they don’t allow community solar projects to be connected to their grid. However, a community solar bill would positively change that.

As of early May, we have joined the newly established Hoosiers for Community Solar Coalition. Together, we are moving forward on community solar and preparing to push for robust policy and development on this issue across Indiana.

Celebrating our champions in the Indiana General Assembly

While there is much that did not go the way we had hoped for this session, we are grateful for all of our Indiana state legislators—Republicans and Democrats—who introduced, authored, co-authored, sponsored and/or championed bills that advanced environmental care and justice.

We will celebrate two of our champions, Sen. Shelli Yoder and Rep. Carey Hamilton at the Annual Faith in Place Action Fund Celebration and Fundraiser: Powering Change Together on June 28. Be sure to register here today!

Both Sen. Yoder and Rep. Hamilton authored or co-authored bills in the state House and Senate, establishing a much-needed Climate Study Taskforce (SB 335, HB 1453) and Climate Study Commission (HB 1604). Faith in Place Action Fund supported these bills, which did not make it to the finish line, this time around.

If you were disappointed by this year’s legislative session, I have something that can lift your spirits (it lifted mine)! Check out this resource provided by the Hoosier Environmental Council called “Advocates and Obstacles.” Here you can find more about other Indiana environmental champions and the bills they supported.

And if you are inspired by what some of your elected officials have accomplished, you can drop them a thank you note here.

Thank you for your continued advocacy. Together, we will be the change we wish to see.

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