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Indiana lawmakers sidestep climate solutions conversation yet again

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Environment, Government, Politics, Science
Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell) and Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) at a press conference last year. Niemeyer wouldn't say why the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee won't vote on the climate solutions task force bill co-authored by Alting. (Ben Thorp/WBAA)

Once again Indiana lawmakers have avoided a study on climate change solutions in the state. The Senate Environmental Affairs Committee adjourned without voting on Senate Bill 335 on Monday that would have created a climate solutions task force.

This is the second year youth climate activists with Confront the Climate Crisis have worked with lawmakers to craft such legislation.

“In Indiana, climate change is decreasing our crop yields which harms our agriculture industry, increasing flooding which endangers our infrastructure and public safety, and dramatically increasing extreme heat which endangers our public health and worsens the reliability of our electric grid,” said Rahul Durai, the group’s co-leader and a junior at West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School.

The task force would have studied topics like acquiring land for nature preserves, creating a carbon credit market, funding energy efficiency measures and expanding mass transit. The bill’s author, Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington), said many committees discuss these topics but not in the larger context of climate change.

“This is a very measured response to that desperation that I know my children feel, that my students feel, and that I know these young leaders feel. We can do this small thing,” she said.

READ MORE: Youth climate activists – once again – urge the Indiana legislature to study climate solutions

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The committee’s chair, Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell), told youth activists with Confront the Climate Crisis not to get discouraged.

“This is kind of the process sometimes and there’s senators sitting right up here that took two and three and four years to get piece of legislation through that they were very passionate about,” Niemeyer said.

Niemeyer said the bill needs more work and likely would have died in committee had he brought it up for a vote. For one, he said the list of potential task force members was too long.

“Now that they’ve had this committee hearing, they’re going to be able to work it some more and try to get it in a place where some senators are comfortable with it and get some more signees on. And I think that’s going to happen because they’re picking up steam now,” Niemeyer said.

Niemeyer said the state legislature hasn’t addressed the issue of climate change strongly, but that it needs to.

Several people spoke in support of the bill including representatives from the United Auto Workers union, engine maker Cummins, the Indiana Catholic Conference, and Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

The Senate committee is not scheduled to meet again for this half of the legislative session — which means it only plans to hear bills coming from the state House until the end of session.

A similar bill in the House, HB 1453, didn’t receive a hearing — much like the two climate task force bills proposed last year.

This story has been updated.

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