2022 Indiana General Assembly Report, Week 3
This past week was a truncated workweek due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday but the legislature’s workload certainly didn’t slow down one bit. CAC staff testified on 7 bills in 4 different committee hearings—one lasting more than 7 hours. We had constant dialogue with legislators and staff throughout the week and are continuing to pursue consumer friendly outcomes. CAC is tracking more than 90 bills. As we reported last week, 857 pieces of legislation have been filed. These bills must be heard by the committees in which they were placed by Tuesday January 25th in the House our Thursday January 27th in the Senate, or they will be considered dead. Of course, that doesn’t prevent any language from being inserted into other bills. Anything is possible until the gavel falls sine die in the Indiana Statehouse.
The House Natural Resources Committee heard two bills dealing with carbon sequestration—one bill specifically for the proposed hydrogen and CCS project in West Terre Haute (Wabash Valley Resources) and one bill that speaks more generally to CCS, including the regulation of pipelines moving super-critical CO2 throughout Indiana. Wabash Valley Resources is seeking HB1249 and SB265, to provide them immunity from any consequences that may arise from the long-term storage of this toxic super-critical CO2. The general bill, HB1209, outlines a framework for entities conducting carbon capture and sequestration and seeks to protect adjacent landowners with notification and compensation— with “forced pooling” if 60% of the pore space area approves. It does not speak to the controversial immunity provisions. However, it does require that the State of Indiana assume ownership and the associated liability 10 years after a certificate of completion is issued by DNR. HB1249, authored by Rep. Dave Abbott, passed narrowly 7-5. HB1209, authored by Rep Ed Soliday, passed 10-2. HB1245 will be voted on as early as Monday this coming week and HB1209 will be heard in Ways and Means Monday (because it has a fiscal impact, it was recommitted to the House’s fiscal committee for an additional vote).
The Senate Utilities Committee met for more than 7 hours this week, lasting well into the evening hours. The worst of the bills was heard first: SB271 which is designed to subsidize the false climate solution that is nuclear power and small modular reactors (SMRs) by shifting the financial risk of this expensive and not ready for prime time technology onto the back of ratepayers. The bill will allow utilities to charge customers for the study, analysis, development, siting, design, licensing, and permitting of the proposed power plant; and, while the proposed power plant is “under construction” and even if the power plant is never completed. The bill was passed by a vote of 8-2, after almost 3 hours of a nuclear energy infomercial complete with USDOE and NCSL presentations. We testified in opposition, making a strong statement of fiscal concern since ratepayers always lose billions with any nuclear science project, especially untested technology that hasn’t proven its worth commercially. Read more on the bill from the IBJ’s John Russell.
After the Committee recessed for Senate Session, it returned and passed the following: SB278 which appears to be a thinly veiled attempt at forcing consumers into a state-sanctioned fossil fuel marriage; SB176 which directs the IURC to report on renewable energy installations on acreage that was assessed as agricultural land, and SB273 a bill dealing with cost recovery mechanisms for water and wastewater utilities under the jurisdiction of the IURC. We testified in support of SB273.
Chairman Soliday’s effort to expand electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, HB1221 was amended on the floor by Rep. Cherrish Pryor to further expand EV opportunities equitably. HB1196, which will create a process for homeowners who live in a HOA that prohibits or otherwise restricts ground-mounted or rooftop solar moved off the Second Reading calendar, unamended. Both bills will be voted on as early as Monday.
Despite the call by Hoosiers for Responsible Lending, to limit payday loans to 36% APR, the Senate Financial Institutions Committee heard SB352 which would continue to allow lenders to charge the highest rates possible (391%). This bill would do nothing to prevent Hoosiers from being ensnared by the debt trap. The bill passed 7-2 and will be heard on Second Reading, meaning it may be amended, as early as Monday.
Items upcoming this week
We’ll be in meetings of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee bright and early Monday morning, where they’ll hear SB265. We’ll also be testifying in Ways and Means on HB1209 and HB1100 which will poorly position Indiana state agencies’ ability to adopt timely and appropriate state standards to protect public health and the environment. More from our colleagues at Hoosier Environmental Council here. Up for a vote will be HB1249 and SB271. Take action on the blank check for baby nuclear reactors, SB271, here. And take action on property rights being sacrificed for carbon sequestration (HB1249 and SB265) here.
Lindsay Shipps Haake & Kerwin Olson