OPINION: Indiana taking proactive steps to combat climate change

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Indiana has been getting a bad rap for its perceived position on climate change as of late.

Two bills and one resolution were introduced in the state legislature this session that would directly acknowledge and address climate change with the creation of a bipartisan task force to address the issue and the acknowledgment by the Indiana General Assembly of the validity of climate change.

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High school and college student groups rallied at the Indiana Statehouse last month in an effort to draw attention to the bills and resolution, as well as to their hope that decision-makers will leave them with a cleaner, more sustainable future. We commend them for their efforts and for taking a stand on an issue that impacts all Hoosiers.

In the end, none of the measures advanced to initial hearings before the required deadlines to move them forward. Headlines suggested the state is doing nothing to combat climate change and that the state is turning its back on the issue and these young people.

While the legislature failed to move these two bills and the resolution forward, the reality is there are a number of measures already underway that are actively working to combat climate change across the state, particularly in the transportation sector.

Governor Eric J. Holcomb in October 2017 signed an executive order outlining steps to distribute Indiana’s $40.9 million portion of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, which was formed as a result of a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Volkswagen Corporation for its violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

The executive order established the 11-member Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee and named the Indiana Department of Environmental Management as the beneficiary of and the administrative agency for the trust fund. Projects eligible for grant funds under the program must reduce NOx emissions from diesel-powered vehicles and equipment and include the replacement and repowering of existing diesel vehicles or equipment with cleaner alternatives serving the same purpose.

To date, the program has replaced 188 diesel vehicles and pieces of equipment with lower emission, cleaner fuels and technologies, including 117 school buses. Funding for more vehicle and equipment replacements has been approved and those projects are in the works.

Drive Clean Indiana is pleased to have played a major role in the successful acquisition of more than $23 million in grant funding for the large majority of these projects with our members and partners through grant writing and project management services.

The VW program also awarded funding for 55 Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations in 30 communities and 61 DC fast-charging electric vehicle charging stations across the state. Planning for deployment is underway.

Drive Clean Indiana was awarded grant funding through the Indiana VW program to manage the education, outreach and marketing for the statewide EV charging station network and is excited about the work that is to come supporting that project.

While all of these figures are impressive, they only represent a small fraction of the work being done across the state with the support of state agencies to help reduce harmful emissions and support actions to combat climate change.

The Indiana Office of Energy Development’s Public Safety Resilience and Rural Energy Innovation grants are working to reduce emissions and promote clean energy programs as well. The Indiana Department of Transportation’s work in partnership with Drive Clean Indiana on alternative fuel corridors across the state is also making a tangible difference in the fight against climate change by increasing the number of and access to alternative fuels and electric vehicles along major transportation routes.

We are a proud partner with those agencies and our members on successful grant acquisitions through those programs.

Is Indiana turning its back on climate change? No. Could we all do more to reduce our impact on climate change and support a better tomorrow? Absolutely, and we encourage all Hoosiers to do so.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column first appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is the executive director of Drive Clean Indiana and executive vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writers.

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