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Priorities, priorities: What should guide IDEM policy?

Gitte Laasby of the Gary Post-Tribune takes a look at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and whether Governor Daniels' policy of "money first" could be undercutting the effectiveness of the department as an environmental watchdog.

In several speeches since Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed him in 2005, IDEM Commissioner Tom Easterly has stated that IDEM's environmental goal is to "increase the personal income of all Hoosiers" to the national average "while maintaining and improving Indiana's Environmental Quality." Permits, Easterly stated, should be "without unnecessary requirements."


At a recent speech in Valparaiso, Gov. Mitch Daniels said he set IDEM's goal of increasing personal income.

"It's coming from me. That is the object of our administration, to raise the personal, after-tax income of Hoosiers. We told every department that they were to look for those steps they could take, what could you do faster, or stop doing, to make it more likely the next job happens in Indiana and not somewhere else," Daniels said.

"We protect the environment first and foremost. We have not changed a single regulation except to toughen some. But the way IDEM can contribute is by making its decisions more promptly and more consistently."

Ignoring the obvious fact that Daniels and his crew have been completely unsuccessful at raising personal income in this state, (hint: it's going in the opposite direction), I'm curious why the Governor feels the need to set income growth on a pedestal like this. Shouldn't the goal of IDEM be to do what's best for all Hoosiers, no matter if that means telling a business to come up with a better emissions plan or telling an environmentalist to go hug a tree?

IDEM chief Tom Easterly wasn't available for interview, but his counterparts in Illinois and Michigan were:

In Illinois, the mission of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is somewhat different, according to Director Doug Scott, who was available for an interview on a day's notice.

"Our agency looks first at the environmental goal. Is there a problem, is there an issue, can we solve it? How do we do that? What's the technology to do that? You bring in the industry and say, 'This is the problem, this is how we perceive to solve it.' Very often, it's very productive. The industry will say, we can't do that because of X, Y and Z," Scott said.

"Money plays a role because that affects the feasibility. But very often, business will be able to say, if you're trying to accomplish this, this is another way to do that. We'll take that into account."


What took you guys so long to notice this? Daniels told us that on the very first day he was in office, when he called all IDEM staff to a meeting and told us he'd heard more complaints about us than any other agency in the state.

"Easterly would be unavailable for questions until April 25"

What the heck? What makes this guy so special that he can't talk to a reporter for a few minutes? IL and MI were available within a day.

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