Shame On Indiana–Again

During this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly, environmental organizations followed–and lobbied against–an effort to roll back Indiana’s already inadequate regulations of the state’s wetlands. As usual, when there is a conflict between science and profit, profit won.

After the bill emerged from the legislative process, 110 organizations and individuals wrote a letter to Governor Eric Holcomb, “respectfully requesting” that he veto it. Governor Holcomb has proved to be far more rational than Republican members of the state legislature–more in the mold of Republicans of days-gone-by– and he had even allowed members of his administration to testify against the bill as it proceeded through the House and Senate, so there was some reason for optimism.

That optimism was dashed. Holcomb is defending his decision to sign the measure by saying that, in its amended form, the bill was less objectionable. Environmental scientists beg to differ, asserting that it ‘puts wellbeing of millions of Hoosiers at risk, now and well into the future.”

Indiana’s existing wetlands law was written in 2003, and it was admittedly due for review and revision now that the state had several years of experience with it. But experts say that rather than improving and fine-tuning the existing law, the changes made by this particular legislation will do “substantial harm to Indiana’s water future.”

According to the environmentalists and other concerned citizens who petitioned Holcomb, the legislation he has now signed puts  the vast majority of Indiana’s wetlands–and there are at least 500,000 that are under state rather than federal jurisdiction– in jeopardy. Indiana already ranks fourth among the states with the greatest loss of wetlands . The likely negative results of this measure will be increased flooding and erosion, loss of groundwater recharge and water supplies, water purification, safe recreation and tourism opportunities, and loss of the diverse wildlife that (according to the letter) “makes Indiana special.”

I am sorely tempted to offer some snark about what I think “makes Indiana special,” but I’ll restrain myself. Let’s just say it is neither respect for expertise or appreciation of nature’s bounties…

The signatories to the letter appended background information detailing the function of wetlands, and offering policy alternatives. They should have saved their pixels.

The letter was signed by a diverse number of organizations, as well as by science professors in relevant fields, and–notably–by several Indiana cities and mayors, and by religious organizations. (The latter evidently take seriously the biblical admonition to be “stewards” of the Earth.)

The letter, the list of signatories, and the science-heavy addendum are widely available online, and the addendum, especially, details the science bolstering the very serious concerns expressed. Our legislators, however, have a history of ignoring science (if you doubt that, take a look at the number of medically-inaccurate assertions they’ve included in their various attacks on reproductive choice) and they have routinely privileged the short term economic interests of their supporters over the long term best interests of Indiana citizens. 

In this case, according to those who followed the bill, the legislative priority was protection of land developers who might find themselves unable to pave over or otherwise wrest profit from every inch of property they own, even under Indiana’s relatively weak regulations.  

Oh, Indiana….will Hoosiers ever grow up?


  1. We can thank our current 5th district Congress representative for this, she tried while she was in the legislature to get this in the legislative agenda. This is all about the right to develop any and all land. We are already paying the price for ignoring science and the lack of support of our wetlands with the ever heavier rains. More and more areas are flooding. It’s no secret that every major National home builder is operating in Indiana, taking huge profits.

  2. I was one of those who lobbied against this bill. One reason I opposed it, aside from the wonders of wetlands and my love of nature, is that the three authors of this bill all have connections to the Indiana Builders Association, as do many of the co-authors, which would seem to be a conflict of interest. I am not even sure how they got on the Environmental Affairs Committee, but there they are.
    For those who are interested in Indiana history and environmental destruction, look into what used to be Beaver Lake in Newton County. It was once called the Everglades of the North, and was one of the most bio-diverse regions in America, if not the world. People came from all over the world to hunt and fish there, bit it was drained so a rancher could grow grain and raise cattle. Imagine what a lake that was 10 miles long, 5 miles wide, and never more than 15 feet deep would be like, and what would the economic benefit be if it was still there? Well, it is gone now, and will never be back, and our current legislature is doing its best to continue the devastation of what remains of our natural world.

  3. There are places in Northeast Indiana where people’s homes are flooding already because of the more violent and frequent rain events, projected to only get worse by 2050 by the Purdue Climate Center. Every new housing addition or office/retail center that gets built on top of filled-in wetlands will exacerbate the problems with aging (or nonexistent) storm water infrastructure in many cities and towns in Indiana.

    As we speak many small farms in Indiana are being broken up into small parcels and auctioned off at record prices – an indication there is no shortage of farm land. In fact there would be a glut of worthless farm land if it weren’t for Indiana’s ethanol mandate. Ethanol is a filthy product to make and an inefficient fuel source – it requires more energy to make a gallon than it provides. So spare me the excuse that the poor family farm will go broke if it can’t drain a small wetland in a low spot in the corner of a field.

    HoosierWatch (I think) just published a paper illustrating that 90% of campaign contributions to Indiana legislators come from PAC’s and other corps. But the real story that goes untold is that the Indiana General Assembly has shamelessly embraced crony-capitalism at a level not seen since the late 19th century. It no longer resembles a government. It’s just a mechanism for handing out favors to people and organizations with the money to pay for it.

  4. Don’t be so hard on Indiana. Yes, I know it’s your home state, Sheila, but look around at the root cause of all this rot: It’s the REPUBLICAN PARTY that has lost its mind nationwide. For over a decade, Texas has had the strictest voter rules in the country, and now after SB6 gets vomited on by Abbott, it will be even harder to vote in Texas – especially if you’re not white.

    Take Florida – please. DeSantis is the most corrupt, evil and brain-dead governor that state has ever had. He thinks that because Trump illegally resides there that he must kiss the ring (take your pick) of the worst human being this country has ever produced.

    It’s no better in South Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia or wherever Republicans control power. They have learned that they can’t win by way of good, sound, public policy, so they are compelled to cheat and change the rules for voting. The Republican party, as has been so often noted on this blog, is now the most dangerous and destructive force to our democracy. They have cast aside democracy for the sake of power. Why?

    Well, as mentioned above, the money people, e.g., the Indiana Builders Association, have purchased the Republican party and its cheaply corrupted employees are doing the bidding of the oligarchs. Every banana republic has performed this way until the power mad dictator is brought down by the people.

    What needs to happen in THIS banana republic is for Republicans to be voted out of office at every level… while voting is still legal and (somewhat) accessible. Oh, and lest we forget the race issues…

    Remember: “We have a Republic, madam. If we can keep it.” B. Franklin.

  5. Yes, Pascal, karma is a bitch. Poor Greta Thunberg, as a teenager, she’s already learned what the world is about, which has caused her to use profanity in her Tweets now. She knows that world leaders are slinging bullshit with their mouths, and she’s correct. Both sides of the aisle, even though the GOP are rather blatant about it.

    I believe it was the graffiti in Poland after WW2, “We thought we were getting democracy, but we got capitalism instead.”

    When I first started researching IDEM under Mitch Daniels, I was like James above, “…the three authors of this bill all have connections to the Indiana Builders Association, as do many of the co-authors, which would seem to be a conflict of interest. I am not even sure how they got on the Environmental Affairs Committee…”

    They were put on there intentionally to rewrite regulations over industry. They’ve been dismantling the government for decades. They are privatizing the government. Capturing it for profit. It’s crony capitalism or neoliberalism. The oligarchy is destroying the government for its own profit maximization. Both political parties are captured. The unions are captured. The Fourth Estate is captured. The courts are captured.

    I was on a Zoom meeting, and even a Republican who was against this and other “right to farm” bills said in his good ole boy Hoosier voice said of his colleagues, “They are in the pocket of industry.”

    Those of you worried about this “democracy” are a bit late to the party. The oligarchs are using the parties to solidify their power. Not against domestic white supremacists (as evidenced by their lollygagging around with prosecutions of so-called insurrectionists), but they are worried about movements from the left who want to retake our country for the people.

    Buy stock in guillotine manufacturers. 😉

  6. Down here in the sunshine state, the state has taken over regulation of wetlands from the Feds. When Nestle has used up all of our spring water for their pricey bottled water supply, all of our rivers are green with cyano-bacteria, and our shorelines are teeming with dead fish from red tide we might just look back on that as being the single most stupid thing we ever allowed to happen. I can’t wait to pay my “dollar and a half” to see the trees in the tree museum.

  7. Money trumps (verb intended) science….and common sense. Enjoy Indiana while you can….

  8. Where’s that list of individuals, corporations and PACs that lobbied FOR the bill? TOP SECRET – not that there is any local press to publish it…what a world we are in….

  9. Both liberals and conservatives have become progressive; they both want to redirect human culture to change the human footprint on the earth; the difference now is in direction.

    Liberals see the need to change in the direction of sustainability; aim towards lengthening the ability of humans to live civilized lives, minus only the frills, as our population adds its last 50% in the next century.

    Conservatives on the other hand want to harvest the wealth created by the past in a final fire sale of everything workers have over the last centuries and still do produce of value.

    Change forward versus change back.

    The only thing that I can think of positive to say about the change back mindset is that I won’t have to live through it, or more precisely its aftermath, myself. I feel awfully sorry though for our impact on those that I always thought we were building back better for.

  10. Who’s your little Hoosier, who’s your turtledove, who’s your little Hoosier, who’s the one you love!

    It really doesn’t matter much I guess, because even if one state wants to follow environmental regulations and do what’s best for the environment at least make an attempt halfhearted as it might be, you have others that would be willing to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot!”

    back in 2003 when we bought our house in this little nook next to a golf course, there was and is a wetlands here, a babbling brook, lots of frogs and toads, turtles, and crawdads will routinely end up in the driveway or backyard. There is a what landed directly behind our house which has what they call original stand trees. They are located in an area that routinely floods with about 5 to 6 feet of water. It was determined that this dip area full of Pete Moss and original stand poplar trees, was one of the sources to replenish the local aquifer.

    A developer bought the land, is going to plow over and fill in this important structure that had been there probably before any houses were built in the entire region, for hundreds or thousands of years!

    He had a design to squeeze four houses into that area, an area which was considered on top of everything else, a sanctuary for birds and reptiles.

    We all signed petitions in the neighborhood, and, the city Council made sure they put enough poison pills in the regulations that it made it financially unviable to do any building on that parcel. The first poison pill was a $200,000 fine/fee to build on an area where there were original stand trees. Then, the contractor would have to find an area and restore a wetland equal to or exceeding what he was getting ready to pave over. This would’ve cost well above his fine/fee of $200,000. Then he would be obliged to take care of that wetland that he restored, for 50 years!

    Needless to say he didn’t find it profitable to build those homes on that parcel. He wasn’t very happy with those in the community, and let us know about it, LOL!

    Too bad this state we live in can’t keep their hands out of your pocket! So I guess there’s always a downside to the average citizen concerning liberal agendas!


  11. It would seem to me that if Indiana is going to become more caring oward Mother Earth that we need to go to the source of the problem. That would be those who have been lobbying the legislature for bills that deregulate them and allow them to destroy the environment. We need to convince Indiana CEO’s that destruction of our environment does not support corporate health.

    Part of the problem is that corporations focus on their quarterly gains, not yearly. They don’t take the long view.

    I recently saw a data survey that indicated that sociopaths often aim to become CEO’s. So that means those with a criminal mind set are leading our corporations. So, we will need a strategy that convinces the sociopaths that damaging the environment will over time destroy their profitability.

    Does anyone have an effective strategy for that?

  12. Wyoming it seems is in a race with Indiana to pass the most willfully ignorant legislation.
    From the Guardian:

    Wyoming stands up for coal with threat to sue states that refuse to buy it.
    Wyoming is faced by a transition to renewable energy that’s gathering pace across America, but it has now come up with a novel and controversial plan to protect its mining industry – sue other states that refuse to take its coal.

    A new state law has created a $1.2m fund to be used by Wyoming’s governor to take legal action against other states that opt to power themselves with clean energy such as solar and wind, in order to meet targets to tackle the climate crisis, rather than burn Wyoming’s coal.

    Wyoming is America’s largest coal-producing state, digging up nearly 40% of the coal produced nationally each year.

    The measure sends a message that Wyoming is “prepared to bring litigation to protect her interests,” said a spokesman for Mark Gordon, the Republican governor of the deeply conservative state, which strongly backed Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections.

    “We have seen a spike in states trying to block Wyoming’s access to consumer markets to advance their political agenda,” said Jeremy Haroldson, a Republican state legislator who introduced the new law.

  13. Just when I thought we have a governor who is a reasonable Republican, he approved this awful wetlands bill, or I should say, destruction of wetlands bill.

  14. In regard to Wyoming’s threat to sue states that don’t buy Wyoming coal, how is it possible to force someone to buy your product if they don’t want it?

  15. Love it, Peggy! “Don’t it always seem to go / You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone / Pave paradise / Put up a parking lot.” That’s exactly where we are!

Comments are closed.