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Quietly improving Indiana's environment

Quietly improving Indiana's environment
State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) shares his thoughts on environmental progress in Indiana

Republican leaders have been lousy at talking about the environment, among many other issues, in the public domain, but the work we have done in the past has been improving our state for years.

Since Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, America has progressed from measuring pollution in “pounds" to “parts per trillion.” With six Republican presidents serving during that span, it's clear that Republicans have played a role in the tremendous progress we've achieved nationally.

At the state level, Republicans have to tell their story with clarity, truth and repetition. The unfortunate reality is that supporting the environment does not often translate into the gripping stories the average Hoosier is excited to read. The regulation of underground storage tanks and solid waste management have an important impact on preventing pollution in the community, but neither is blockbuster entertainment. However, when the legislature gets to work, a very deliberate line of dominoes begins to fall into place.

For example, a direct line can be drawn from 2018's Water Infrastructure Task Force, which studied how to replace failures of critical water infrastructure, to the 2020 bill requiring the testing of drinking water in Lake County schools for lead. That bill also demonstrated the legislature's overwhelming tendency to work in a bipartisan fashion, while Gov. Holcomb marshalled all the force of his office by listening to people affected by the crisis, established a workable plan with city, state and federal officials, and effectively put steps into motion to address the issue.

There is also a distinct eye on the future when it comes to state and local efforts. The 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force is in its second year of evaluating how the state is powered and improvements that can be made in the coming years. Earlier this month, the Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources put forward draft legislation for consideration that would address carbon sequestration through the conservation of forestland, reforestation and carbon farming. Locally, Carmel's Jim Brainard is one of 24 mayors who serve on a national steering committee for Climate Mayors, a bipartisan network aiming for meaningful climate change action. Initiatives promoted by the Mayor include installing all LED streetlights, creating a walkable and bike-able downtown, and, of course, constructing roundabouts throughout the city. All these measures reduce the city's carbon footprint, save money and continue to build a strong economy.

The work of improving our environment is never done, but the public support of Indiana's citizens will be a boon to those of us on both sides of the aisle facing this challenge. Management of our environment is dynamic, and we need to keep pushing forward to protect it.