IDEM backs off legislative intentions

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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management hasn’t budged from its determination to eliminate the publication of Office of Air Quality federally required public notices in state newspapers – replacing publication with posting on IDEM’s website.

But IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly reportedly has pulled back from an earlier intention of asking the state legislature for permission to put state-mandated notices on the Internet rather than publish them in newspapers.

Easterly met Oct. 18 with representatives of 17 environmental groups who had written a letter opposing the Internet-over-newspaper choice. HSPA also signed that letter.

During the meeting, Easterly held strong to his position that Internet notice is adequate, said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Easterly said IDEM previously planned to publish Office of Air Quality notices in five Indiana newspapers. IDEM officials have said elimination of the notices would save $7,500.

Kharbanda said Easterly was willing to inform the publishers of the five newspapers of public hearings the Office of Air Quality will hold.

Meanwhile, HSPA executive director and general counsel Steve Key has talked to John Mooney in Chicago’s Region 5 office of the Environmental Protection Agency. Mooney said the EPA doesn’t believe its role is to approve or disapprove a state agency’s decision on publication of public notices.

HSPA plans to push the question further up the chain of command within the EPA.

On another front, the state legislature’s Environmental Quality Service Council held its final meeting of the interim.

There was no vote on a recommendation to prohibit IDEM from using only the Internet for its public notices.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said he didn’t push for a vote because not enough members supported it, and he didn’t want to have the Environmental Quality Service Council on record opposing newspaper publication.

Pierce originally broached the issue with the council.

As it stands now:

• IDEM’s Office of Air Quality after Dec. 1 will not publish in newspapers any public notices of hearings on its state implementation plan.

• Easterly no longer intends to seek the ability to jettison newspaper public-notice advertisements from the legislature.

• HSPA will pursue the question with the federal agency.

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