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State suspends funding to support recycling

Dec 30, 2008

Link to this article in the Chicago Tribune

Citing the impact of the recession, Indiana’s environmental agency has halted funding for state grant and loan programs that support recycling and pollution prevention – a cutoff that will persist through at least through summer 2010.

The move means that up to $3 million that had been approved for various recycling or pollution prevention programs by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will not reach the intended recipients.

IDEM said in a statement Tuesday that it was temporarily halting the funding for the programs because it “may not be feasible” for cash-strapped local governments and businesses to provide the matching dollars needed for the state-funded programs.

The agency said the funding suspension should have no effect on current local recycling programs offered through the state’s solid waste districts.

But Carey Hamilton, the executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, said she’s worried what the funding cutoff would mean for the nonprofit coalition’s 160 member groups statewide involved in recycling, composting, source reduction and other efforts.

“We certainly appreciate the need for local governments to tighten their belts in these really tough economic times, but we’re a bit concerned about the loss of these state grants and loans – even temporarily,” Hamilton said.

She said the programs targeted by the funding suspension have aided not just Indiana’s environment over the years but also its economy by leveraging local dollars that in turn benefit cities and towns, in part through recycling and green jobs.

IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said the agency decided to suspend funding for the grant and loan programs after Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office asked the agency to identify programs “that could be deferred” to ensure sufficient funding for health care, public safety and education.

She said the funding will remain suspended until at least the end of June 2010, and possibly the end of 2011, depending on how long the current recession continues.

Earlier this month, Daniels ordered most state agencies to cut their spending in the current fiscal year by an additional 3 percent to close a projected $763 million gap between state spending and income due to the recession.

Jesse Kharbanda, the executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the group understands that governments need to re-examine their funding priorities in a recession.

But he said the decision “does not seem sound” coming in the wake of several recent changes at IDEM, including the agency’s decision to dissolve its Office of Enforcement, that have surprised and angered environmental activists.

“Indiana, on a person basis, faces persistently high toxic emissions, which have repercussions for our health – and our economy – and we need a vigorous, sustained effort to address these emissions,” Kharbanda said.

IDEM’s decision to halt funding affects state grant programs for waste tires, recycling, pollution prevention, household hazardous waste and public education. It also includes the state’s loan program to develop markets for recyclables.

Hartsock said the funding suspension means about $2 million for recycling market and development loans that had been awarded will be withheld from the intended recipients.

Another $600,000 to $1 million that had been awarded under the recycling and waste tire management grant programs will also not reach their intended recipients for now, she said.


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