INDIANAPOLIS – Eighteen environmental and public interest groups urged Indianas environmental agency to reconsider its plans to stop publishing newspaper notices about hearings on proposed air quality policy changes, warning the change will eliminate an important channel in alerting the public about the hearings.
The groups said in a joint statement sent Friday to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that its plans will inadequately serve the publics interest by shutting off one of the avenues through which Indiana residents learn about the hearings. Their statement also expressed concern that the agency might expand the proposed policy to other areas and that other state agencies might eventually follow suit.
Under IDEMs policy change, the agency will on Dec. 1 stop publishing newspaper advertisements announcing hearings before the states Air Pollution Control Board on proposed changes to state air pollution rules and plans to bring parts of the state that exceed federal air quality regulations into compliance with those rules.
Instead, IDEM will notify the public of hearings with email, notices posted on its website and postcards mailed to people whove requested information on the hearings.
The groups statement to IDEM said elderly rural residents could be disproportionately impacted by the policy change because they might not have access to the Internet and are more prone to respiratory ailments aggravated by poor air quality.
Few Hoosiers will anticipate that an IDEM hearing affecting their community or the entire state is looming. You cant expect that theyll routinely check the IDEM website to see if theres anything that would cause them to act, the groups said in their statement emailed to the agency. ... IDEMs proposed policy would lead ordinary Hoosiers to lose an important channel to learn about these important hearings.
The groups requested a meeting with the IDEM leadership in hopes of persuading the agency to seek a change in the planned policy.
The groups signing the statement include the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Indiana Public Health Association, the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club, Common Cause of Indiana, the Hoosier State Press Association and Citizens Action Coalition.