House Democrats on Environmental Affairs Committee call out Republican back-pedaling on wetlands bill

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INDIANAPOLIS - House Democrats on the Environmental Affairs Committee today spoke out against Senate Bill 389, which would strip vital protections of wetlands from Indiana’s law, when it was considered by the full House. The bill ultimately passed through the House with a vote of 58-40.

The House Environmental Affairs committee accepted Amendment #24 to SB 389 in its final meeting last week. Amendment #24 was presented as a compromise, promising minimal reduction of Indiana's existing wetlands and urging the General Assembly to assign this topic to an interim study committee.

This compromise was undone when additional amendments were added by Republicans on the House floor yesterday.

 

State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie), Ranking Democrat on Environmental Affairs:

“This is not the bill I voted for in committee. We agreed on a bill that spared what little wetlands we still have, but at the first chance they got, House Republicans undid all of that and put our wetlands back on the chopping block. Indiana continues to rank in the bottom of the nation in terms of environmental health. I shudder to think of where we will rank if this legislation is enacted.”

 

State Rep. Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend):

“There was a time when our legislature was applauded for heroic, bipartisan action to safeguard our state’s environment after 85% of wetlands were destroyed in just two decades. To disregard the legislation our predecessors put into place to protect our state’s wetlands after study and topic research is disgraceful. Rolling back those protections risks the destruction of 60% of the few remaining wetlands. Indiana is guaranteed to experience more frequent and extreme weather as a result of the climate crisis, and wetlands are our last line of defense against these natural disasters. In 2016, historic rainfall devastated South Bend leaving behind flooding in the streets, destroyed homes and a costly cleanup. Michiana is not alone. Indiana ranked second in the nation for flood-related deaths. Flooding will always be a ‘when,’ not an ‘if’ problem. Indiana should address its climate crisis, not make it worse.”

 

State Rep. Pat Boy (D-Michigan City): 

“My district, and many communities in Northern Indiana, are still recovering from last year's shoreline issues and rely on what wetlands we have to prevent further shoreline erosion and flooding. By repealing our state's protections, we are undoing all of the recovery those lakefront communities have achieved and putting them at risk of more serious, long-lasting damage. We as lawmakers are obligated to come up with solutions to Indiana's abysmal environmental health, but with this latest version of SB 389, we are only adding to the problem.”

 

State Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Hammond):

“Just yesterday, our Republican colleagues stood on the House floor and admitted that they can’t tell the difference between the classes of wetlands—and today, they voted to strip wetland protections. It makes no sense to act recklessly when we don’t know which wetlands will be affected. What we do know, however, is that stripping protections will pollute our drinking water, increase flood damage on Hoosiers’ properties and harm our natural ecosystems. That’s why we wanted a task force of experts to study and decide how to minimally reduce wetlands, if it must be done at all. This bill throws away bipartisan efforts, just as it abandons our environment.”

 

Indiana currently holds the title of most polluted state in the U.S., with a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stating that Indiana leads the nation in toxic chemical releases. Wetlands have many environmental benefits including the storage of carbon within their plant communities and soil, which mitigates air pollution and combats climate change, improving the quality of drinking water, protecting communities from flooding and preventing shoreline erosion.

SB 389 will now return to the Senate, where its author will consider the amendments added by the House. 

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