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Water, Energy and More Surface as Priorities

Water, Energy and More Surface as Priorities

 

By Greg Ellis, vice president of environmental and energy policy - Indiana Chamber of Commerce

An energized Indiana General Assembly got the lead out in 2017 and passed multiple environmental and energy bills. Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) once again championed water resources legislation along with some help from Rep. David Ober (R-Albion) and Rep. Heath VanNatter (RKokomo). Meanwhile, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) and Rep. Ober moved much-needed energy legislation, which should be considered a great first step in a new energy plan for the state. Here are the highlights:

 

Old Business: Veto Override

Early in the session, Rep. David Wolkins (R-Warsaw) sought an override of then-Gov. Pence’s veto of 2016’s HB 1082 – the “No More Stringent Than” legislation. We supported this bill last year in its final form. The House voted to override the veto 65-29. The Senate veto override passed 49-1, with Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) as the only no vote. As a result, 2016’s HB 1082 is now law; it prevents the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) from implementing rules adopted by the Environmental Rules Board (ERB) or proposed by IDEM that would be stricter than federal rules until the Legislative Council or interim study committee has an opportunity to review them.

This law will create a high level of accountability and transparency as the ERB and IDEM will have to justify their rule and policy before the Legislature. It should provide certainty and give us ample opportunity to comment on any proposed rule that we have serious concerns with.

Environmental Legislation

While it was relatively quiet in what most would consider traditional environmental legislation, there were a few bills of importance that the Indiana Chamber supported and in one instance, had to work to get some language changed to clarify what substance was really being regulated. With that said, there were a number SPONSORED BY: Bose Public Affairs Group http://www.bosepublicaffairs.com/how-could- 31-7-billion-impact-you of bills that dealt with one of the key goals of Indiana Vision 2025 – water. These water measures are aimed to aid water utilities and promote both economic and resource sustainability, and growth in Indiana.

House Bill 1230 regulates disposal of coal combustion residuals. It authorizes ERB to adopt rules consistent with the regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning standards for the disposal of coal combustion residuals in landfills and surface impoundments. This applies to electric utilities.

House Bill 1234 regulates storage of anhydrous ammonia. Although this was not a bill that we supported or opposed, the language as introduced would have required every facility that stored ammonia for more than 30 days to apply for approval of the storage location from the state chemist’s office. This would have potentially affected a number of the Chamber’s members and their processes by adding another layer of regulation. The state chemist’s office indicated that it only intended the legislation to apply to agricultural ammonia, although that is not what the language indicated. We wanted certainty and thanks go to Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) for adding clarifying language. Ammonia means agricultural anhydrous ammonia that is intended for use as a fertilizer for agricultural purposes.

Senate Bill 421 fixed issues with 2015’s Senate Bill 312 that regulated above-ground storage tanks. The issues were pointed out by the Chamber’s Environmental Policy Committee and ERB. The law, as passed in 2015, required duplicative reporting of tanks and contents to IDEM. The law had multiple exemptions for reporting and was not effective. This bill repeals the 2015 law requiring owners of certain aboveground storage tanks to register their tanks with IDEM.

It also urges the Legislative Council to assign the topic of public water supply protection to the Interim Study Committee on Environmental Affairs for study this fall.

House Bill 1211 establishes the Transborder Water Resources Authority as a body to study the subject of ownership rights in one or more transborder water resources shared by Indiana and other states; explores the desirability of entering into interstate compacts with other states concerning the use of transborder water resources; and makes recommendations concerning the content of any such interstate compact. This bill is important to the sustainability and development of Indiana’s water resources because there are a number of states currently involved in litigation regarding their transborder water resources. Fortunately, Indiana is not one of them; and this legislation should aid in avoiding burdensome litigation.

Senate Bill 416 established the Infrastructure Assistance Fund. Senate Bill 416, along with SB 511, were two bills championed by Sen. Charbonneau. Senate Bill 511 was incorporated into SB 416. This is a comprehensive water resources bill that is consistent with the Chamber’s policy positions and Indiana Vision 2025. It requires the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) to study the ability of utilities to provide clean and safe drinking water in Indiana for the foreseeable future. It also requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to consider governmental requirements arising from environmental law and their effect upon the utility's operational expenses in its deliberation.

The bill also requires ERB to adopt rules to carry out the intent of the law concerning the safety of the public water supply. It authorizes the commissioner of IDEM, when the point of water collection of a public water system is being relocated, to require that the water be tested at the new point of collection before the public water system may begin to collect water at the new location. This should help avoid situations like Flint, Michigan.

The most significant part of Senate Bill 416 is the establishment of the Infrastructure Assistance Fund. This is a result of information gathered through the Chamber’s 2014 water study and last year’s study by the IFA that was conducted by Jack Wittman. The IFA study projected need for the large amount of investment in infrastructure that can’t be absorbed by business and residential ratepayers. The Infrastructure Assistance Fund will provide grants, loans and other financial assistance for the planning, designing, acquisition, construction, renovation, improvement and expansion of public water systems.

It requires the IFA to administer the fund and to establish criteria for the making of grants, loans and other financial assistance from the fund. The bad news is that the Infrastructure Assistance Fund was not funded during this session, but the framework is in place. Future funding may also be achieved through the federal government, depending on the current federal administration’s plans.

House Bill 1519, Infrastructure Development Zone, is the last significant piece of water legislation and was authored by Rep. VanNatter. We initially had concerns about this bill; specifically, the proper allocation of costs, but supported it after those concerns were addressed by an amendment. This bill adds wastewater to an already existing law that allows gas and water utilities to extend services to unserved or underserved areas for purposed of economic development. The bill provides that a water or wastewater utility that is requested to extend utility service to an infrastructure development zone may petition the IURC for approval of the requested extension of service and if the petition is approved, the IURC shall approve rate schedules that include a surcharge payable by customers located in the geographic area within the jurisdiction of the governmental entity that requested the extension of service. A significant change that this makes is an amendment to the statute concerning infrastructure improvement charges for eligible water and wastewater utilities to change the definition of “eligible infrastructure improvements” with respect to municipally-owned utilities and not-for-profit utilities; and specifies that the adjustment of an eligible utility’s basic rates and charges to provide for the recovery of infrastructure improvement costs shall be calculated as a monthly fixed charge based upon meter size. This provision should make everyone pay their fair share and likely reduce the cost currently paid by a large individual user of water. Another significant provision of this bill allows a public water utility to seek to include customer lead service line improvements as eligible infrastructure improvements for purposes of the statute concerning infrastructure improvement charges for water and wastewater utilities. This should promote efficiency and public health, which should reduce costs in the end.

Energy Legislation

Senate Bill 309, authored by Sen. Hershman, was the most significant energy bill of the session; Rep. Ober was the House sponsor. The Chamber supported it and worked closely with a number of our members and allies to move it along. The bill would not have gone to Gov. Holcomb’s desk if not for everyone’s hard work. The bill received a lot of unfair publicity and criticism, which was often the result of inaccurate information being put out by its opponents, as it made it through the legislative process. Although the bill was publicized as a solar bill, that was not what this bill was about. It was titled as distributive generation but it had many moving parts. The bill addresses rising energy costs and a long-standing struggle between the investor-owned electric utilities and larger consumers of energy.

We recognize that SB 309 is not a one-size-fits-all or fix-all. Everyone’s energy needs and expectations are different, so this is a difficult area to come up with a solution that everyone will be completely satisfied with. The Chamber’s goal was to reduce or maintain current energy rates. Moreover, this bill addresses several areas of concern.

It expands current state law regarding cogeneration for users that generate their own energy with a capacity above 80 megawatts. The generation can occur at the site or be located at a contiguous property and must be integrated with the host operation if it is contiguous. The bill includes organic waste biomass facilities within the definition of an “alternative energy production facility”.

The bill increases transparency of rates through the posting of periodic review of rates by the IURC. The bill also requires the IURC to review the rates charged by electric utilities for backup power to eligible facilities and for purchases of power from eligible facilities, and to identify the extent to which the rates meet specified criteria.

The bill also provides for competitive procurement. Before the IURC can grant to an electricity supplier that is a public utility a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the construction of an electric facility with a generating capacity of more than 80 megawatts, it must find that the electricity supplier allowed or will allow third parties to submit firm and binding bids for the construction of the proposed facility. It provides that a public utility that installs a wind, a solar or an organic waste biomass project with a nameplate capacity of not more than 50,000 kilowatts – and uses a contractor that is subject to Indiana unemployment taxes selected through a competitive procurement process – is not required to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project from the IURC. The bill was amended in the House in response to concerns by school corporations and their advisors. It urges the Legislative Council to assign the topic of self-generation of electricity by school corporations to the Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications.

The portion of the bill that received the most attention dealt with net metering, which is a billing mechanism that credits renewable energy system owners for the excess self-generated electricity they add to the grid.

The bill provides that a net-metering tariff of an electricity supplier must remain available to its customers until the aggregate amount of net-metering facility nameplate capacity equals at least 1.5% of the electricity supplier’s most recent summer peak load or July 1, 2022, whichever occurs earlier. Currently, net metering is governed under the IURC and is capped at 1% of the peak summer load. Current law is silent on what happens when the 1% is reached. The bill grandfathers existing net-metering customers at the current retail rate they are receiving from the utilities for 30 years or 15 years, depending on when their energy source was installed.

While the bill will end net metering for those outside the timeframes, as net metering is currently defined, the customers that decide to produce their own energy (one megawatt or less), outside of those grandfathered and are not operating under a net-metering tariff, fall within the definition of distributed generation. The bill requires the investor-owned electric utilities to petition the IURC for approval of a rate for procurement of excess distributed generation once the 1.5% net-metering cap or five years is reached.

Although the law for producers of their own energy of between one megawatt and 80 megawatts remains relatively unchanged, this bill is a significant step toward achieving varying energy needs and controlling costs by giving more options to business consumers. Going forward, the bill can be used as a building block in future legislative sessions. The status quo or current stalemate on these issues is changing. Without any changes to current law, continued litigation of energy issues/costs would continue, which increases the costs to both ratepayers and the utilities.

 

Resource: Greg Ellis at (317) 264-6881 or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

2017 Final Legislative Report

An A- Session for the Business Community

By Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO - Indiana Chamber of Commerce

Finally! Indiana has a long-term road funding plan; one that is significant – $1.2 billion – and should sustain us for the next 20 years. The Indiana Chamber made this issue its number one priority because transportation infrastructure is so vital to economic development – specifically attracting jobs and investments, and growing incomes. Yes, people will pay a little more to make that happen, but it’s primarily related to how much you drive. And don’t forget, a large contributor to the overall fund mix will be a willing business community. The payoff for everyone will be huge: improved travels with fewer delays and vehicle repairs caused by crumbling roads. Hoosiers should see these new dollars put to good use very soon, perhaps as early as this summer.

Entrepreneurs and businesses in general saw several other significant victories. More money – to the tune of $250 million – is available for promising, innovative Hoosier companies via the Next Level Trust Fund. They will also now have greater certainty that the Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit will be there in the long term because its 2020 expiration date was removed. Another big boost is the $5 million to encourage more direct flights from Indiana airports to international and domestic destinations. And the “open data” bill assures the state’s Management Performance Hub has maximum utility and will be a great tool for policymakers, local government and economic development.

Meanwhile, we have all seen how the state’s brick-and-mortar stores have been hit hard, but there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. With online sales tax collections becoming more a question of when, not if, this will help level the playing field with their online and mail counterparts. Not to mention, it also boosts Indiana’s sales tax base.

We were very pleased that the state’s pre-K pilot program received more than double its original funding and outreach to students. Now, $22 million annually will help the most at-risk youngsters in up to 20 counties get off to a good start with their education. Would we have liked more funding? Of course. But that SPONSORED BY: Bose Public Affairs Group http://www.bosepublicaffairs.com/how-could-31-7-billion-impact-you wasn’t the reality in this tight budget year.

ISTEP is in the past. ILEARN will be a shorter test for grades 3-8 and based on Indiana standards as it should be. Much emphasis will be placed on getting the results back to teachers and parents faster so that information is factored into teaching and homework time. At the high school level, alternative testing will take place at the end of the school year. It’s important that teacher evaluations and school A-F grades remain tied to these test scores. That was a battle, but fortunately the need for accountability prevailed. For decades, the Indiana Chamber has pushed for making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position, as are all other agency heads. Now, thanks to a push by Gov. Holcomb, that will be the case. What we don’t agree with is waiting eight years to make it happen. Nevertheless, this is a very positive step for making sustained education progress in the state.

The one area where the General Assembly had an opportunity to make significant progress and chose not to was with the anti-smoking reforms. That’s unfortunate because tobacco costs Indiana employers $6 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity; smoking also costs taxpayers over $5 million per year in Medicaid expense. But we and other members of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana will be back next year to continue the crusade to reduce smoking rates in our state.

Resource: Kevin Brinegar at (317) 264-6882 or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

May is Bike Month

May is Bike Month

This past April, California legislatures considered raising taxes on gas and diesel fuel in order to fund investments in their ailing transportation infrastructure, according to a statement from Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. Brown and state lawmakers introduced legislation that would raise $52.4 billion in transportation infrastructure investment funding over the next 10 years through a series of gas and diesel tax hikes they say would cost most drivers less than $10 per month. Of the $52.4 billion to be raised, $1 billion was earmarked to improve infrastructure that promotes walking, bicycling and alternative transportation.

Here in Indiana, House Bill 1002 was signed in to law in April, and from the details of the bill, this infrastructure packaged deal included $0 for the promotion of walking and bicycling, or its required infrastructure. To fill a void in promoting healthier lifestyles regionally, the Madison County Council of Governments (MCCOG) began its participation in National Bike Month, an event sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Since 1956, Bike Month has been a vessel for communities to encourage healthier living and alternative means of transportation.

As 2009 adopters of the event, MCCOG and the city of Anderson began collaborating on events with a shared vision. “The initial focus was on Bike to Work Day as a way to bring awareness to commuter cycling and the health, environmental and economic benefits”, says Ryan Phelps, Senior Transportation Planner with MCCOG. “The group that was in charge of planning Bike to Work Day formalized after the 2012 activities as the White River Bicycle Coalition and expanded the event schedule for the first time in 2013, adding the Mayor’s Ride, Mountain Biking Trail Day, Bike to School Day and others.” “While the number of events has changed, the focus on increasing bicycling awareness and encouraging residents to get outside and enjoy the May weather has remained the same.”

The importance of winning the health battle in Madison Co. has never been more clear than in recent months, with our ailing health rankings continuing downward. Without increasing the communities awareness of these initiatives, can we right this downward trend? I wonder how long it will take for the west coast trend of encouraging healthier lifestyles with government investment to make it to Indiana... In the meantime, we here at the Madison County Chamber are proud to do our part in promoting the month of May as Bike Month.

 

The choice to live healthier starts with you. Let the month of May and Bike Month be your motivation! To follow Bike Month and view the detailed calendar of events, visit madbiking.com

Tech Talk: Additional 'Next Level' Legislative Victories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Talk: Additional 'Next Level' Legislative Victories

Last week, we discussed the recently passed $250 million Next Level Trust Fund created to enhance what the state can do to help invest in high-growth Indiana companies. But much more was done during the 2017 Indiana General Assembly session to enhance Indiana's innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and opportunities. In the budget bill, legislators created an option for state employee defined contribution plans to invest up to 20% of their contributions in an Indiana-focused fund. That will be in addition to the $250 million Next Level Fund.

The budget also has a $15 million per year Business Promotion and Innovation Fund, which gives the Governor and Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) funds for the following: encourage regional development initiatives (to maintain momentum with Regional Cities in other areas of Indiana), incentivize direct flights to regional and international airports, advance innovation and entrepreneurship education programs through strategic partnerships and support international trade.

The Launch Indiana initiative and Ball State University Entrepreneur Center will benefit from $1 million a year that was appropriated to help early-stage growth companies. The 21st Century Research and Development Fund, administered by Elevate Ventures, was fully funded at $30 million a year. Life sciences will receive a boost with a $20 million investment in the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute. And while the Venture Capital Tax Credit still is not transferable to attract additional out-of-state funding, the 2020 expiration date was removed. This creates additional certainty that it will be a positive factor in the future.

Faster broadband in many Indiana communities will result from the small cell legislation, which will enable more rapid deployment of 5G broadband. Unfortunately, some communities hastily passed ordinances to block the streamlining intent of the bill by designating their community as underground utility districts. State agency open data will be more useful to the state's executive branch, policy makers and stakeholders with the passage of HB 1470 and the $9 million a year to fund the Management and Performance Hub. This robust integrated data system will be further built out to apply analytics to many important issues facing Indiana and our communities. It will increase government transparency and provide additional data-driven solutions. And Certified Technology Parks will benefit long-term by the development of better performance metrics of success as defined in HB 1601. They will be evaluated every three years with those metrics that will be developed by IEDC with input from local units of government.

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Mark Lawrance | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | (317) 264-7547

Celebrating Entrepreneurism

Ken and Shirley Montgomery

Start with Hoosier roots, add a little Southern experience and blend it all with Anderson/Madison County relationships and you have the success story that is Ken and Shirley Montgomery, founders of krM Architecture.

Both from Indianapolis, Ken saw a time of service in the Korean War, married Shirley in December 1954 and attended school at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University.)

After graduating in 1958 Ken worked in Montgomery Alabama for a year.    The Montgomerys now of Montgomery found themselves living and working in the hotbed of the civil rights movement.  Says Shirley, “we lived in Montgomery, Alabama right after Rosa Parks and during Dr. King.  Our office was right next to the church he preached at.  We actually were there for history as it happened.”

Returning to Indianapolis in 1959 and then to Anderson in 1960. the Montgomery clan was rapidly expanding.  Ken refers to it as “a time somewhere between sanity and stupidity.” Ken worked for Arthur Henning until 1978 when he and Shirley started K.R. Montgomery & Associates as an architecture and Interior Design Firm.

The new firm, now known as krM, opened with a design for Reardon Auditorium, the County Jail, and a remodel for the Madison County Courthouse.  After working from their home for a short time, the company relocated to the Union Building finding themselves neighbors of John Pistole.  Through an agreement with Jay Ricker, krM moved to its current location on the second floor of the Historic Post Office Building at 1020 Jackson Street in Anderson.

Shirley opted to stay at home for 24 years with a growing brood of nine children.  Later she attended Anderson University receiving her Bachelor’s Degree, and then received a Master of Education with an emphasis in the History of Art and Architecture through Ball State in 2001.  She later added a Master of Architecture degree from Ball State in 2008, and authored a book on sustainability in 2012.  Shirley and her grandson, Kevin actually graduated from Ball State at the same time.

The early years of krM found the company specializing in a combination of Anderson Projects and Public Libraries.  After designing the retooling of the old Sears building into the new public library, Ken got an offer to work on the Greenwood library which son, Michael, actually took over.  From that point, krM has designed a high percentage of the public libraries in Indiana.

At one time the firm had 26 people working overtime.  The economic downturn of 2008 caused a reduction in workforce but the company survived with design work for Hospitals, Public School systems, and Anderson University. Current Madison County Projects include the new Flagship Purdue Polytechnic building, Community Hospital Pavilion and the Itopolina project. Outside of Madison County some current projects include, a restoration of the American Legion Building on The Indiana War Memorial Mall, A student Center Renovation at Earlham, Renovations at Hamilton Heights Schools, A new branch Library for Indianapolis and a restoration of the Eagles Theater in Wabash.

Today, krM Architecture continues its strong family tradition with sons Michael, David and grandson Kevin, deeply involved in the firm.  But it extends further.  Says Shirley, “we can come in to the office now and see the familiar faces of Winifrid, Stuart, Susan, Steve, Matt and Elaine and many others who have all been so important to our ongoing success.  So, it is like a family.

The younger people in this firm have progressed to the point that they will tackle anything.  We were blessed to have the projects we did, but they tackle things we wouldn’t have dreamed of trying at that age.  They are forward looking and branching into other communities.  They are so very good at the use of Technology to do amazing things.”

Among their peers, the professional recognition for krM is starting to pile up. This year krM was awarded the AIA Indiana “Distinguished Firm of The Year” and in 2014 krM was given more design awards than any other firm by the AIA Indianapolis Chapter.

When asked about their most satisfying moment in business, Shirley quickly responds, “When we drove by Anderson University and saw the Chandelier at Reardon Auditorium lit for the first time.”

For Ken and Shirley Montgomery, Anderson and Madison County suits them just fine.  According to Shirley, “A lot of our business associates became friends and remain friends.  We’re very grateful that AU is here.  The culture in our community is special because of the close relationship with the University.”

Ken adds, “When GM was here they hired the best there was.  A lot of capable people came to work here are still good friends.”

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