An IDEM bureaucracy-driven proposal to eliminate the required publication of notices of Air Quality Permit applications in newspapers will get a vote by the Environmental Rules Board on Nov. 14.
The board, chaired by former state senator Beverly Gard, held its public hearing on the rule Wednesday. Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, testified against the proposal. He was the only public member to speak on the proposed rule.
“IDEM and board comments echo what I’ve heard from opponents of newspaper publication for 25 years,” Key said.
Read Steve Key’s testimony here.
One board member suggested that rather than placing ads, IDEM could send out the information to newspaper editors who could decide on whether to publish the information as news. That’s not “public notice,” it’s media notice, according to Key.
An IDEM staffer pointed out that notice on the IDEM website is there for weeks, while newspaper notice is published on a single day. “It doesn’t matter how many days its posted on a website, if no one sees it,” Key said. “People do see notices published in their local newspaper.”
Only one Board member, Ken Rulon of Arcadia, voted “no” on a motion to bring the rule to a vote in November. He represents the interests of agriculture on the Board.
“It’s disappointing that the Board didn’t see fit to kill this proposal that does nothing to improve government transparency – only hide information in plain sight because Hoosiers do not and will not seek out the IDEM website to learn if a local business seeks permission to pollute the air,” Key said.
“We do have time to further make our case with the Environmental Board members.”
HSPA’s executive director said the testimony of IDEM’s Chris Pedersen makes it clear to him the motivation behind IDEM’s proposal – the lack of customer service by Indiana newspapers.
Peterson rattled off a list of issues with the placement of public notices:
• No phone number available to get problems resolved (only an email address);
• Length of deadline prior to publication date to get a notice published (She said one newspaper requires a notice be submitted 14 days prior to the publication date);
• Credit holds placed on Air Quality permit publication, even when the late payment was associated with a wastewater program notice from IDEM;
• Missed publication dates;
• and Failure to publish at all.
“IDEM staff wants to eliminate publication because newspapers can be work, while hitting a button so the notice is posted is a relative piece of cake,” Key said.
But sporadic service issues, which HSPA could address for IDEM, is not a reason to deprive the public of its most effective means of learning about applications that could affect their health, Key argues.
“If you read my testimony, you can see that the public’s preference, common sense and simple math all argue against IDEM’s proposal.”