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The Communist Party of Indiana CPUSA struggles for socialism: to better the lives of Indiana's working families, to protect and extend labor's ability to organize, for the needs of women, children, immigrants (documented and undocumented), the disabled, LGBT, and all people who strive for affordable quality health care, housing, and education. We stand against racism in all its forms. We stand for jobs for all. We stand for peace. We support all who struggle world wide for the dignity and self-determination of the majority of their nation's people and against imperialism, occupation, and exploitation for private profit.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two Environmental stories on Indiana

Bill would keep pollution laws at fed levels

January 11, 2009

By Gitte Laasby

Post-Tribune staff writer

A new bill would make it nearly impossible for Indiana to implement stricter environmental laws than required by the federal government -- unless it's an emergency and business representatives approve.

Environmentalists are taken aback, saying such a law would prohibit the state from being on the forefront environmentally.

"That's exactly right," said state Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven, about the bill. "Unless there's some situation that really needs it, then we don't need to make a rule. I meant to make it very difficult to them to make rules more strict than EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.) If we really need it, EPA would have it."

States are required to adopt rules that are as strict as federal laws, but can choose to go further. Miller environmentalist Lee Botts was hoping Indiana would take stronger action on some issues where the federal government has been slow to act. That couldn't happen if the General Assembly passes the new bill, Senate Bill 79, authored by Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.

"It's a new effort to make sure Indiana doesn't get out front," said Botts, who's a member of the Water Pollution Control Board. "They don't want Indiana to do more than they have to."

Kruse referred all questions to Pond.

The bill would establish an environmental rule review board, which would prevent existing air, water and solid waste pollution control boards from adopting state environmental regulations that are stricter than federal laws unless it's an emergency and the new board approves.

The board would consist of seven members. The three voting members would be the Indiana Department of Environmental Management commissioner or his designee and two businessmen appointed by the governor. Four legislators would be non-voting members.

"It's part of an ongoing (effort) in Indiana ... to define the interest of the state in terms of certain economic interests," Botts said. "The only purpose would be if you're seeking to put a certain perspective on the rules."

Pond said the purpose of the bill would be to protect small business people. She said IDEM wanted cabinet and furniture makers to have environmental permits because they use finishing products, such as shellac, that release volatile compounds that contribute to air pollution. She said IDEM didn't provide scientific evidence to back up its demand.

"If EPA?doesn't think it's an issue, that it's causing air pollution, we don't need the rule in Indiana," Pond said. "If they make a rule, they should have scientific data to back up the rule. They can't just make up a rule without reliable information."

She said in hard economic times, a new rule from IDEM could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for small businesses.

Asked why no citizen, municipal or environmental members would be represented on the board, Pond said she'd be willing to enlarge the board, but that larger boards have a harder time getting things done. She suggested the existing three boards be combined into one.

Kay Nelson, director of environmental affairs with the Northwest Indiana Forum, said the stringency of a state's environmental rules affects businesses' ability to compete globally.

Contact Gitte Laasby at 648-2183 or glaasby@post-trib.com.

Comment on this story at www.post-trib.com.

IDEM attorney now working in file room

January 11, 2009

By Gitte Laasby

Post-Tribune staff writer

The top legal manager at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has been moved to the agency's file room.

Robert Keene had been the assistant commissioner of the Office of Legal Counsel for a couple of years until a month ago. He is now listed on IDEM's Web site as "attorney." He works out of the file room, where he responds to public information requests.

"I made a change here at IDEM," Keene confirmed. "There is nothing else I can comment about it, really."

He referred other questions to IDEM's communications office.

Keene has been with state government roughly 10 years, IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said. She called the move "lateral."

"Bob is helping on records requests, including requests you have submitted," Hartsock said in an e-mail. "The change, which happened about one month ago, was made so that we can respond better to public records requests. The change was based on agency needs and did not involve a pay cut. We will be working to fill the assistant commissioner position."

State records show employees with Keene's classification get paid $60,000 to $109,000 a year.

Keene gained statewide media attention two weeks before his move when he refused to release calendar items to the Post-Tribune that show when top IDEM officials met with BP officials on BP's air permit.

Keene said the records are exempt from disclosure because they are attorney-client privilege or deliberative communications -- both justifications that Hoosier State Press Association attorney Stephen Key said are not legitimate. IDEM later provided another explanation for withholding the records; that calendars are exempt because they are the equivalent of a diary or journal. The Post-Tribune has still not received the records.

Contact Gitte Laasby at 648-2183 or glaasby@post-trib.com.

Comment on this story at www.post-trib.com.


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