INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Funding for the Indiana agency that oversees hazardous spills and the safety of water and air has been decreasing over the last decade, a report by a nonprofit organization concluded.
The Environmental Integrity Project’s report also concluded that the slashes in funding for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management happened even as the state government’s spending budget increased.
IDEM’s budget lost nearly $35 million in the last decade, accounting for inflation, the report showed.
“These cuts happened despite the fact that our economy was growing and our overall state spending was growing,” said Indra Frank, the environmental health and water policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “It’s not that Indiana couldn’t afford to staff an environmental agency.”
IDEM’s budget comes from various sources, which include the state’s overall fund, federal money and income from waste permit fees, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Companies that emit waste must pay for permits to operate in Indiana under safe water and air guidelines.
The budget decreased partly because fewer waste permit fees have been issued, State Budget Director Zac Jackson said.
“Hoosiers are emitting fewer pollutants as they become more environmentally conscious,” Jackson said in an emailed statement.
The report by EIP, which monitors and encourages enforcement of environmental laws, concludes that the hazardous waste management program lost 76% of its budget from 2008 to 2018. IDEM’s staffing also dropped by almost 150 employees over those 10 years.
The report also points to 23 wastewater plants and industrial facilities in the state that are in significant noncompliance of the Clean Water Act, while 72 plants are listed in Environment Protection Agency records as having “high priority violations” of the Clean Air Act.
The state’s economy may be negatively affected if environmental issues go unaddressed, said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council.
He noted that pollution affects real and perceived quality of life, which plays a large role in attracting businesses, workers and talent.
“The small government kind of anti-regulatory philosophy that’s been guiding our state government may be seen as a pro-business policy, but in the long term it’s actually not,” Maloney said. “It’s not pro-business to neglect environmental protection.”