Energy and environment issues are not playing a big role in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.
At first glance, Democratic candidate John Gregg and Republican candidate Eric Holcomb have similar views on those issues. Both would pursue an “all of the above” energy strategy—the state should use natural gas, renewable energy, and coal.
“I’m a realist that we’ve seen the high water mark of the coal industry,” says Gregg. “With that said, we’re still, as we’re still burning coal, we’re going to be burning coal for a long time in Indiana and the United States, we’ve got to burn it as clean as we possibly can.”
Earlier in his career, Gregg worked for two coal companies, including as a lobbyist. Holcomb does not have former experience with the industry. The Pence administration sued the federal government over clean air regulations that would impact coal production, but that was before Holcomb became lieutenant governor.
Holcomb is a strong supporter of coal, though.
“I want to make sure that we’re encouraging clean coal technology and innovation so that we can continue to keep clean coal in our mix of that all of the above, not at the expense of, but in the mix of,” says Holcomb.
And, at first glance, when it comes to environmental protection, both candidates agree that the state needs to work closely with the federal government. They agree this is especially true when it comes to cleaning up the lead contamination in East Chicago, Indiana.
Holcomb says cleaning up these Superfund sites is a big issue.
“There are sites all over, it’s not just a state issue, it’s a national issue for sure,” says Holcomb. “And then you end up working with, you just roll up your sleeves and work with the locals and you work with the federal, with the EPA to clean up these sites.”
Expressing similar views, Gregg says he’d like to appoint someone solely to search for federal grant opportunities — not just for environmental protection, but in all areas.
“We need to actively pursue federal dollars, these are not evil dollars, these come out of our paycheck,” says Gregg.
Both Holcomb and Gregg agree that agricultural regulations should primarily be made at the local level. They also agree that the state’s Division of Forestry should continue to use science based management practices, although Gregg did express concern over the five-fold increase in the amount of timber harvested on public lands over the past decade.
The bigger differences are evident when they talk about their priorities.
“Number one, I want us to come up with an energy policy,” says Gregg.
His other priorities include better funding for the Department of Natural Resources and Indiana’s state parks.
“Those should be crown jewels for the state of Indiana,” Gregg says.
For Holcomb’s part, he addresses energy and environmental policies by looking at the economy first. He says for Indiana to accomplish any of its goals, including environmental ones, the state needs a strong workforce.
“If I could get one thing done, it would be, it would center all around people, people, people,” Holcomb says.
While Gregg’s answers to these energy and environment questions didn’t focus explicitly on the economy or workforce development, Gregg does say good environmental policy improves quality of life and the economy.