Tis the season for interim study committee meetings! The areas of environment and utilities already have been very active.

In August, the Interim Study Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources met to discuss beach erosion on Lake Michigan near Portage and Michigan City. The focus of the meeting was matching funding from the state of Indiana so that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps.) can conduct a study on how to fix or abate the continued erosion of sand from beaches in the area. Initially, this does not sound like a business issue, but it does have significant impacts. The most obvious is the tourism effect on local businesses along with tax revenue generated. However, there is more to it than that.

Several industrial businesses, which are Chamber members, located in the area have had to dredge sand from around their water intakes at considerable expense. The interim committee discussed several ideas for potential funding of the Corps. study but weren’t able to make any recommendations as they are restricted by the rules of the Legislative Council. The committee cannot put forth policy recommendations except in its final report, which is due November 1. The next meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources is scheduled for September 11 at 10:00 a.m.

The 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force met on August 26. The task force – chaired by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) and Sen. Erich Koch (R-Bedford) – heard testimony for six hours. As can be expected, testimony was given from the viewpoints of the electric utilities, energy consumers, environmental and public interest groups, as well as several trade associations.

The Indiana Chamber provided testimony and shared its energy policy positions with the task force. We summarized our overall position: The business community is looking for adequate, reliable, affordable and cost-effective energy for Indiana.  The task force will be meeting multiple times over the next two years to discuss a variety of energy-related topics. The next gathering is scheduled for September 19.

On a side note, the Chamber is in the early stages of launching an energy study similar to what we did with water in 2014. We plan for it to be used as an educational and advocacy tool.

The Storm Water Management Task Force met on August 27; the group’s co-chairs are Rep. Soliday and Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso). The witnesses included many academics, environmental consultants, state agency representatives (from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Finance Authority).

Jack Wittman, author of the Chamber’s 2014 water study, started things off by giving an overview of storm water infrastructure and areas of need. This information was consistent with the water study. The next Storm Water Management Task Force meeting is scheduled for September 18 and will focus on rural storm water issues.

Other upcoming meetings of interest include the Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications scheduled for September 10 at 10:00 a.m. and the Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation on September 18 at 10:00 a.m.

Resource: Greg Ellis at (317) 264-6881 or email: [email protected]