There are a number of ways the Environmental Protection Agency under President Joe Biden can help reduce pollution in Indiana. That was one takeaway from the Hoosier Environmental Council’s Earth Day panel discussion with two former EPA employees.
David Ullrich worked for the EPA for about 30 years and recently retired from an organization that works to protect and restore the Great Lakes. He said the federal government needs to treat large farms called confined animal feeding operations just like any other industrial polluter.
“These are major corporations that are major sources of air and water pollution," Ullrich said.
But Ullrich said there’s some pollution that states simply have more authority over than the federal government — like CAFOs and emission leaks in urban areas called fugitive emissions. He said it’s important that the EPA do more research on how these things affect public health and make sure that information gets to Hoosiers and state lawmakers.
Bill Muno worked for the Midwest regional EPA for about three decades — including in the Superfund program, which cleans up hazardous waste sites in the country. More than 70 percent of these sites are within a mile of lower-income residents who receive housing assistance from the federal government.
Muno said the EPA needs more money to clean up Superfunds as companies responsible for the pollution go bankrupt and those sites get “orphaned.”
“The number of orphaned sites has significantly increased over the past four years and there’s a backlog of orphaned sites that need funding," he said.
Muno said the Biden administration has made a commitment to cleanup contaminated sites in environmental justice communities. He hopes the EPA will extend that to Superfunds as well.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.