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What energy, environment bills are on their way to becoming law?

Zach Schalk of Solar United Neighbors speaks at the 2022 Renewable Energy Day at the Indiana Statehouse. One of the bills the group supported — which allows homeowners with HOAs better access to rooftop solar — became a law.
Courtesy Of Hoosier Environmental Council
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Zach Schalk of Solar United Neighbors speaks at the 2022 Renewable Energy Day at the Indiana Statehouse. One of the bills the group supported — which allows homeowners with HOAs better access to rooftop solar — became a law.

There were several bills proposed this year's legislative session that had to do with energy and the environment in Indiana. Many bills are still awaiting Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signature. Here’s a run-down of which bills passed and failed during this year’s legislative session.

You can find a list of all of the bills proposed during the 2022 session on the Indiana General Assembly’s site.

What passed:

SB 271: Small modular nuclear reactors

The bill would make it easier for smaller, more advanced nuclear power plants to be built in Indiana. Supporters say these plants provide reliable, clean power — and their small size makes them cheaper and safer.

But environmental groups and consumer advocates said small modular nuclear reactors are a risky investment for the state. None of the planned modular nuclear reactors have been built yet and many have gone over their proposed budgets — some by billions of dollars. The Union of Concerned Scientists has also questioned the safety of the plants. It said the nuclear industry has sometimes used the plant’s smaller size to justify cutting back on safety equipment and staff as well as shrink the area that would be told to evacuate in a disaster. The U.S. also hasn’t found a way to safely store nuclear waste long-term, so most of that waste would remain on the site of the plants.

HB 1313: Screening children for lead poisoning

This bill offers lead testing for all Indiana children under 6 through their doctor. Kids with lead poisoning can have trouble learning, behavioral issues, and poor kidney function. Right now, Indiana only requires kids covered by Medicaid to be screened for lead — and according to state health officials less than half of those kids are actually getting screened.

The three-year screening program will help the state to better identify who is most affected by lead and where. Governor Holcomb has signed this into law.

HB 1209: Carbon sequestration projects

The legislation allows companies that pollute to capture their carbon emissions and store them underground. Among other things, the bill would require companies to get permission from owners of 70 percent of the land area and compensate those who don’t consent. Those property owners wouldn’t be allowed to sue for punitive damages as long as the company complies with its permit. Some environmental advocates say underground carbon storage doesn’t address the source of the CO2 and has the potential to contaminate drinking water or cause earthquakes.

After the underground storage facility has closed, the state would assume liability for the CO2 — something the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and some lawmakers aren’t comfortable with. However, Senate Bill 265 – which would have removed some liability for Wabash Valley Resources LLC in Terre Haute to store carbon emissions underground through a state pilot program – did not pass.

HB 1196: Homeowners associations and solar power

It allows a homeowner to petition their homeowner’s association to get solar panels on their roof – but the association would have a say in how the panels look. Getting the bill passed marks a victory for lawmakers in favor of rooftop solar. They’ve been trying to pass a bill to allow greater access to solar for people with homeowner’s associations for six years. Holcomb signed this into law on March 10.

HB 1221: Electric vehicles and electricity pricing

Businesses like gas stations would be able to sell electric vehicle charging under this bill without being subject to state utility rules. However, it requires businesses selling EV charging to get their energy from their local utility. Solar advocates worry that could prevent businesses with solar panels from offering greener, cheaper charging options.

The measure would also allow utilities to recover money from customers for public charging stations in pilot programs. Holcomb signed the bill into law.

SB 411: Commercial solar and wind energy

Senate Bill 411 sets state guidelines for where wind and solar farms can be located. Any county or township that adopts the standards — or less stringent ones — for things like how far a wind turbine or solar farm can be from a home would be deemed a wind or solar ready community. But the incentives to get that title were stripped from the bill.

The original bill would have given counties $1 for every megawatt hour of energy generated by a renewable energy project, every year for a decade — boosting revenues for rural areas in the state. A sponsor of the bill suggested that funding could be added into the state’s budget next year. Governor Holcomb signed the bill into law on March 11.

SB 342: Flood plain management

The bill would prohibit the state from making residents in the floodway in Wayne County move or put their homes on stilts. It aims to help two Amish brothers who inadvertently built their homes in a floodway. Wayne County neglected to check the state floodplain maps before issuing permits to the brothers. But the Indiana Department of Natural Resources warns, if it becomes law, the bill could jeopardize flood insurance in the county and possibly the state.

Though it wasn’t in this bill, language that requires local floodplain administrators to check state floodplain maps when reviewing permit applications was added into HB 1103 last-minute. That measure was also passed by the General Assembly.

SB 269: Regulation of dams

This bill reduces the number of dams that are under the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ jurisdiction, but also requires those who own high hazard dams to make an emergency action plan. Lawmakers behind the bill said people who own the dams have had to pay to maintain them to the state’s standards. That can sometimes lead to years-long lawsuits against the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, costing taxpayers money. But some engineers and environmentalists have said now isn’t the time to decrease state oversight of dams. Many dams in Indiana are old and in danger of failing.

SB 147: Underground pumped storage hydropower

This bill adds this type of energy storage to the state’s list of clean energy resources. The technology generates energy by passing water through a turbine as it moves from a higher reservoir to a lower one. It accounts for most utility-scale energy storage in the U.S., but hasn’t been used much in Indiana — which has fewer of the hills and valleys needed to create the two reservoirs. But supporters of the legislation said abandoned mines and quarries in Indiana could allow the state to use this technology — and bring economic opportunity to those areas.

HB 1147 and SB 129: Seed tests

These bills charge farmers more money to get their seed tested by the state. The Office of Indiana State Chemist offers to test seed for purity and germination, but only charges about half as much as what private companies do. Officials with the agency say that makes it harder for them to provide that service. Among other things, the bills would allow the state chemist to keep fees in line with industry standards and change them more often. Governor Holcomb signed both bills into law.

READ MORE: Some of the 2022 legislative session’s biggest issues defined by Republicans vs. Republicans

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues. Trying to follow along with our coverage of the legislative session? We've compiled all the stories our reporters have published by bill number and topic here.

What failed

HB 1224: Government investments and contracts 

Indiana wouldn't have been able to do business with banks that want to divest from fossil fuels under this bill. Its author said banks in favor of clean energy are "discriminating against" Indiana businesses by choosing not to lend to or invest in coal, oil, and natural gas companies.

HB 1100: Agency oversight and rule-making procedures 

This bill would have made it harder for state agencies to make new rules. Among other things, it would have banned state agencies — like the Indiana Department of Environmental Management — from creating a rule that's more restrictive than any federal rules or laws. Environmental groups said that’s a problem because, in some cases, the federal government specifically lets states set their own, more protective environmental policies.

HB 1063: De novo judicial review of certain agency actions 

House Bill 1063 would have changed the way trial court judges look at the facts when they review decisions by state agencies. Indiana Department of Environmental Management, for example, has scientific expertise and is tasked with regulating polluters in the state. If an industrial company’s facts carry the same weight as IDEM officials, that would make it easier for industries to overturn agency decisions and harder for IDEM to do its job.

SB 255: Climate and environmental justice task force

This bill aimed to create a task force to address climate change and environmental justice in Indiana. The statewide youth climate group Confront the Climate crisis helped craft the language in the bill along with a Senate resolution — which, had it passed, would have meant the general assembly acknowledged climate change as a crisis.

SB 313 and HB 1250: Community solar facility program

These bills would have required investor-owned utilities to create community solar projects. Community solar allows customers to buy into a solar project and then receive some credits for excess energy it delivers to the grid. Supporters said community solar provides more stable energy prices for lower-income residents and revitalizes their communities.

SB 265: Carbon sequestration pilot project

This bill would have protected Wabash Valley Resources LLC in Terre Haute from nuisance lawsuits from property owners during a state pilot project. The company wants to store its emissions underground, but hasn’t started doing so for fear that property owners nearby will sue. It’s been nearly three years since the pilot program was approved. This is the second attempt the company has made to get such a bill passed.

SB 248 and HB 1304: Distributed energy generation

Net metering gives people with solar panels credits for any excess energy that they deliver to the grid. These bills would have made it clear that the state wants utilities to calculate that excess energy by subtracting how much energy solar customers use from how much they produce over a whole month. CenterPoint and several other Indiana utilities want to calculate that almost in real time — only giving solar customers credits for those moments where they produce more energy than they use. Solar advocates said that would put solar customers at a disadvantage.

But in the middle of the legislative session, a court rejected CenterPoint’s way of calculating excess energy. It’s not clear what it means for other utilities that have made similar requests.

SB 122: Annual inspection of CFOs

The bill would have required the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to do on-site inspections of the large animal farms known as confined feeding operations, and for CFOs to submit an annual report to IDEM. This is the fourth time that such a bill has been proposed in the Statehouse and failed.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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.

Rebecca Thiele