What happened to the environment in the 2024 session?

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The 2024 legislative session has concluded, and as in previous years, several bills addressing environmental and Hoosier health risks are up for debate.

A variety of topics were discussed, ranging from natural resources and toxic chemicals to wildlife and more. Experts and advocates say several proposed bills aimed at bringing about beneficial changes to the environment are essentially dysfunctional on arrival and have been rejected from their assigned committees. In some cases, the cases could not proceed and, in some cases, even public hearings were not held.

Meanwhile, other bills that environmental and health advocates said would have harmful effects were approved by Republican supermajorities and sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk.

Here’s a quick look at some of this year’s winners and losers at the state capitol.

Winner: Protection from Toxic Chemicals

Experts say House Bill 1399, which would change Indiana’s definition of permanently toxic chemicals and put Hoosiers at risk, has had a tough time this legislative session. The bill passed the House and then died in the Senate, but was revived with a conference committee amendment. If this language passes, thousands of PFAS chemicals that are considered hazardous in every other state would no longer be considered hazardous or even PFAS in Indiana.

Although this language was ultimately removed from the bill before the end of the session, it remains possible that Indiana would regulate PFAS in the future.

Loser: More unprotected wetlands.

The first bill Holcomb signed this session would strip additional protections from Indiana’s few remaining wetlands. Opponents say HB 1383 was rushed through debate to quell public backlash.

The bill was introduced as a compromise between the state Department of Environment and the building industry, but wetlands regulators exclusively told IndyStar that the bill “is a lie in its claims to be a good bill.” This law now opens up important natural resources to more development without any safeguards or mitigation measures in place.

What happened to other bills?

Wetlands: Another bill passed this Congress, SB 246, creates some incentives (through tax assessments) to encourage private landowners to preserve wetlands on their property.

hunting: Despite significant opposition, Holcomb signed SB 241 this week, directing the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to establish a bobcat hunting and trapping season starting next year.

Green cremation: Hoosiers will have to keep waiting if they want an alternative to traditional cremation. The state failed to pass a bill that would have legalized alkaline hydrolysis (often referred to as water burial or chemical cremation).

Pollinator: According to HB 1337, Hoosier beekeepers can place hives within a neighborhood with the cooperation of a homeowners association. The new bill awaiting Holcomb’s signature allows HOAs to regulate honeybee hives, but does not prohibit them.

Coal ash: A bill that would have placed certain limits on how toxic coal ash can be used, particularly in landfill construction projects, failed to pass this year.

Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email sarah.bowman@indystar.com.follow her her twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.

The IndyStar Environmental Reporting Project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

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