INDIANAPOLIS – House Bill 1494, proposed by State Rep. Dave Wolkins of Winona Lake, was passed by the House of Representatives in the Indiana General Assembly and was assigned to the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure.
HB 1494, dealing with confined feeding operations, has caused some local concern. The bill is designed to ease restrictions on building or expanding confined feeding operations, defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as an animal feeding operation that confines animals for more than 45 days in an area that does not produce vegetation. CFOs include not only feeding operations, but also manure storage, transfer and treatment systems.
Current law requires approval by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management before a new CFO can be constructed or an existing one can be expanded.
The proposed bill changes the language from obtaining approval to merely getting a permit, with IDEM limited in its ability to deny a permit to errors in the applicant’s paperwork.
Environmental and conservancy groups, such as the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, have expressed concerns lakes and watersheds, for one example, could be harmed by manure being injected into the ground.
Hoosier Environmental Council released a policy analysis of the proposed bill and said the existing CFO regulation already fails to protect Hoosiers. They said HB 1494 would leave Hoosiers and the environment even less protected because the permitting and public notice requirements for CFO expansions would be weakened.
In the policy analysis it also stated IDEM approval would not be needed for an increase in animal numbers and animal capacity as long as it is less than a 10 percent increase in manure volume generated as a result.
Wolkins has contended, though, an approval by definition is a permit. He said the word “permit” is clearer because it requires meeting a definite set of written requirements. A permit leaves no doubt as to what is required, he noted.
Wolkins also said the new law does not change any current requirements with respect to the 1/2-mile notice. He said neighbors would be notified of the process. He also emphasized IDEM would be able to deny a permit for more reasons than errors in an applicant’s paperwork.