The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Indiana Environmental Reporter.
Indiana legislators are putting Hoosiers on a dangerous path, refusing to listen to urgent concerns about climate change and the need for greater access to renewable energy. Instead, they are pursuing false, dangerous and expensive schemes on behalf of special interests.
While this is nothing new at the Legislature, the passage of time has required more urgent action. The climate crisis has reached “code red for humanity,” according to the latest United Nations climate report. Climate change is already resulting in increased extreme rain events, reduced agricultural production, and more intense droughts and heatwaves in Indiana, according to Purdue University.
Confront the Climate Crisis, a high school student-led statewide group, spent months gathering support for legislative climate action from public officials, a coalition of 80 organizations and Hoosiers from across the state. They collected nearly 20,000 signatures on a petition calling for climate legislation and worked to get it introduced by senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle. But their bills were never granted a hearing.
Meanwhile, the chair of the so-called 21st Century Energy Policy Task Force refuses to allow any discussion of climate change. Yet, when special interests representing fossil fuels and the nuclear industry come knocking, legislators are all ears.
In this 2022 legislative session, legislators have refused to hear:
● SB 255: Would have established a Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force.
● SCR 3: A resolution acknowledging the impacts of climate change.
● HB 1287: Would have created a climate change commission.
● SB 248, HB 1304: Bills that would have restored fair credit for extra electricity generated by Hoosier’s own rooftop solar panels.
● SB314, HB1136: Bills that would have extended net metering.
● SB 313 and HB1250: Would have required monopoly utilities to build and provide access to community solar projects.
● HB 1335 or SB 412: Would have cleaned up toxic coal ash pits that pollute our drinking water and groundwater.
All of these bills confront real climate change impacts, propose equitable actions and offer true climate solutions for our communities.
Instead, legislative leaders are moving bills that offer false climate solutions on behalf of special interests like BP, Wabash Valley Resources, so-called Reliable Energy (the former Indiana Coal Council) and the nuclear industry.
● SB 265 and HB 1249: Provide the special privilege of near-blanket immunity from any damage caused by Wabash Valley Resources’ plan to pump carbon dioxide emissions into the ground, relieving them from important risks to neighboring residents and businesses.
● HB 1209: Paves the way for unproven carbon sequestration from new industrial sources of emissions throughout the State.
● SB 271: Puts the financial burden of expensive, unproven nuclear reactors on utility customers even before they are built and producing electricity.
● HB 1100: Limits the flexibility of state agencies like IDEM and DNR to adopt any regulatory protections more stringent than those at the federal level.
These bills only benefit special interests and the legislators who do their bidding in exchange for our health, environment, financial security and collective futures.
Legislators have the tools at hand to respond to climate change and empower Hoosiers to support climate solutions: Reinstate fair net metering, reinstitute energy efficiency programs, incentivize commercial-scale renewable energy, provide funds for impacted coal communities, and pass energy policy that accelerates the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy resources.
As one of the worst states in the U.S. for carbon pollution, Indiana has a critical role to play in creating climate solutions. We can avoid the worsening impacts of climate change on our communities and our collective futures with cleaner air and water and lower energy costs. We can generate our own energy and take back power from monopoly utilities. We can ensure that the energy transition is an equitable one that benefits everyday Hoosiers, and not just special interests.
Wendy Bredhold is the senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana and Kentucky.