March 12, 2024

What energy, environment bills survived Indiana’s 2024 legislative session?

Article origination IPB News
A wetland area at Leonard Springs Nature Park near Bloomington. Wetlands were the subject of legislation once again this year. - Rebecca Thiele / IPB News

A wetland area at Leonard Springs Nature Park near Bloomington. Wetlands were the subject of legislation once again this year.

Rebecca Thiele / IPB News

Though there weren’t as many energy and environment bills this legislative session as in previous years, there were still some notable measures up for debate at the Indiana Statehouse.

Here’s a rundown of some of the bills that passed and failed during this year’s legislative session.

A list of all of the bills proposed during the 2024 session is on the Indiana General Assembly’s website. Or check out our bill tracker.

What passed

HB 1383: Wetlands

This law lowers the number of wetlands that can fall into Class 3 — Indiana’s most protected group of wetlands, and the only class that didn’t lose significant protections when the state changed its wetlands law in 2021. Environmental groups say this will further reduce the number of wetlands in Indiana. The bill was the first to be signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb this session. Activists say the bill was fast-tracked.

SB 246: Assessment of wetlands classified as wildlands

Not to be confused with HB 1383, this measure would provide an incentive for property owners to preserve wetlands. It allows the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to certify some acres of ground as a wildland — which counts as a tax break for landowners. Environmental activists and wetland experts were overwhelmingly in favor of this bill and against HB 1383.

SB 5: Lead water line replacement and lead remediation

The measure aims to force absentee landlords to replace lead drinking water pipes in Indiana apartments and other multi-family housing. It requires landlords to enroll in a program to replace the lead pipes they own through their water utility or be forced to pay for it themselves.

The law also sets up a fund to help schools test for lead and replace lead fixtures. Kids exposed to lead can have trouble learning, behavioral issues and poor kidney function. It can also cause high blood pressure, kidney failure, and anemia in adults and seniors.

HB 1108: Development restrictions on slopes

This law aims to make more land available for housing in Monroe County by allowing development on steeper slopes. It increases the maximum slope allowed from 15 to 25 percent — with an exemption for land that drains into drinking water reservoirs for cities and towns, like Lake Monroe.

Like many environmental regulations, home builders say slope restrictions add to the cost of building new housing. But Monroe County stormwater and planning experts said allowing development on steeper slopes could send sediment pollution into underground streams that resurface in other areas of the county. They also said building on steeper slopes could actually increase home prices because they would need more erosion control.

SB 241: Taking bobcats

This law establishes a hunting and trapping season for bobcats in Indiana. Hunters said there are now enough bobcats in the state for a sustainable hunting season, but opponents question if that’s true.

HB 1337: Preemption of HOA regulation of beekeeping

Under this legislation, HOAs would not be able to stop people from having beehives on their property as long as they’re actively maintained for honey and placed 100 feet from residents with bee allergies. Indiana cities and towns were already unable to restrict property owners from keeping bees.
 

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What failed

HB 1399: PFAS chemicals

This bill would have changed the definition of toxic PFAS in Indiana. Among other things, exposure to the chemicals has been linked to kidney cancer, problems with the immune system, and developmental issues in children. Indiana manufacturers want to exempt certain PFAS chemicals from the definition — so they can continue using them to make things like medical devices, drugs and cars.

But the bill’s opponents said it would also allow them to make other, non-essential products that make people sick. The legislation was stalled in a Senate committee. The committee chair said it was unnecessary because Indiana hasn’t proposed any rules limiting PFAS in manufacturing. Language from that bill briefly reappeared in a bill on local government matters, but was edited out before passage.

HB 1305 and SB 249: Major ground water withdrawal facilities

Both of these bills would have created a permitting process for large groundwater withdrawals that could potentially harm the state’s drinking water resources. They were inspired by a proposal to pipe water from Tippecanoe County to a major industrial project in Lebanon. The author of one of the measures suspects Gov. Eric Holcomb’s request for a water study and legislative approval for the pipeline project may have stalled these bills. Neither received an initial hearing in committee.

HB 1172: Committee on climate resilience and economic growth

This measure would have created a committee to study the impact of climate change in Indiana. Similar bills have been proposed by Indiana lawmakers since 2022, spurred by the statewide youth climate activist group Confront the Climate Crisis. Unlike this bill, the one proposed last year got a committee hearing — but the committee adjourned without voting on the bill.

HB 1252: Radon testing in school buildings

Public schools would have had to test for radon in their buildings and report that info to the Indiana Department of Health. Radon is a naturally-occurring gas that seeps into buildings from the soil. Exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in people who don’t smoke in the U.S. High levels of radon are estimated to cause more than 21,000 deaths every year. Though the legislature passed a bill to encourage radon testing in schools in 2019, it’s not required.

HB 1382: Retirement of electric generating units

This bill would not have allowed Indiana electric utilities to retire a coal or natural gas plant without approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The measure didn’t receive an initial hearing in committee.

Find all the bills our statewide team covered in our bill tracker at ipbs.org/2024billtracker/.
 


Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Copyright 2024 IPB News.
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