David Hoppe

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:: Kicking and screaming about climate change

Earth Charter Indiana’s better idea

by David Hoppe

A little leadership would be nice…

But Gov. Mike Pence’s knee-jerk response to the EPA’s proposal to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 16 years was all too predictable. Rather than leadership, Pence let out a howl for things as they are.

That’s because the EPA regs represent a major step toward weaning the country off coal, and Indiana is addicted to the sooty stuff. Only West Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming use more coal than we do. Indiana relies on coal for 84 percent of its energy needs.

Now we’ve known something like this was coming for some time. Over the past three years the EPA has enacted a Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and a Cross-State Air Pollution rule. Given the ever-mounting evidence regarding the threat of climate change, and the role fossil fuels like coal play in contributing to that threat, you’d think Indiana would have gotten its rear in gear and started taking steps to diversify its energy portfolio in a cleaner, more sustainable direction.

But that would have taken leadership.

Indiana could have been making headlines by enacting policies and procedures aimed at making our air quality among the best in the land. Instead, our governor is looking for legal means to circumvent the new regulations — and perpetuate Indiana’s “good enough” air quality, which ranks in the bottom tier of states.

Gov. Pence seems to think that by digging in his heels, he can will the smokestack chugging days of the 1950’s back into existence. He thinks that cheap energy will trump environmental responsibility when it comes to economic development. What he fails to realize is that this kind of retrograde posturing sets Indiana apart in a way that’s likely to hurt rather than help the state’s future development.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Earth Charter Indiana and its youth program, Youth Power Indiana, have initiated a legal process, a Petition for Rulemaking, aimed at getting the state’s Environmental Rules Board to enact a climate action plan for Indiana. Thirty-four states, including Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky have already adopted similar guidelines.

The plan the petition calls for would aggressively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; pursue longterm solutions, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy resources to prevent further degradation of the atmosphere while creating quality local jobs; and help Hoosiers adapt to and prepare for climate change impacts.

Rosemary Spalding, a former IDEM executive and president of the ECI board, says, “I understand the need for a coordinated statewide effort and the importance of basing regulatory decisions on sound scientific principles, accurate data and information…to effectively address climate change in Indiana.”

Spalding believes the Environmental Rules Board has the authority to make an effective Climate Action Plan a reality in this state. With the governor’s support, this plan could represent a major step toward making Indiana a model climate citizen, for a change, rather than a recalcitrant outlier.

And that would be a kind of leadership Indiana could really use.