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IDEM takes another step in lax regulation

Jan 6, 2009

Link to this editorial in the Post-Tribune

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management's cancellation of local air quality contracts is yet another sign of the politicization of the agency.

Without warning, IDEM canceled its contracts with Hammond and Gary, effective March 31.

The end of the contracts doesn't just mean a lack of local monitoring.

It means less monitoring, period.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is rightly angry about the move because of the effects it will have on Hammond and other area residents.

He justifiably notes the case of Jupiter Aluminum, which had been burning dirty aluminum at its Hammond plant and was cited by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The city's inspectors -- whose jobs will end March 31 -- were the ones who caught Jupiter and reported it.

Local inspection mean closer attention to violators. It also means faster action. Cities can respond to a complaint in days. IDEM's own policy is to respond within 30 days, and often that's just a warning letter.

IDEM Commissioner Tom Easterly defends the move, saying it will save money and consolidation of services will end job duplication.

It also will ensure that IDEM, which recently closed its office of enforcement and stopped fining state agencies, will be even less stringent than the past.

It has become clear that Gov. Mitch Daniels is, like his mentor George W. Bush, spending the political capital he gained in his second election on ideological battles.

The winner is industry.

The loser is anyone who breathes.

It never is too late to reverse a bad decision. Doing so is the sign of a good man.


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