The state is moving forward with plans to stop posting air pollution notices in newspapers, despite opposition. The notices let people know if someone has applied for a permit to put contamination into the air. Now the majority of those would be online or sent via email.
The Environmental Rules Board voted Wednesday to preliminarily adopt the proposed change. Only one board member, Ken Rulon, was opposed.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management says newspaper readership is down and updated numbers show those printed notices cost the state nearly $60,000 year. More than half of that is staff time — state employees say they’ve had issues with posting delays and fees.
Steve Key is the executive director for the Hoosier State Press Association. He says he understands IDEM’s frustration, but that the public needs these notices in its local paper.
“The Hoosier State Press Association stands ready and willing to work with IDEM to help with those services issues,” he says.
Key says the press association has resolved similar problems with the state Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.
So far, IDEM has received about 600 comments asking the state to continue publishing air pollution notices in newspapers. Chris Pedersen with IDEM's Office of Legal Counsel says most of those comments were submitted via email.
Matt Stuckey is the deputy assistant commissioner for IDEM's Office of Air Quality. He says IDEM isn’t required to publish public hearings in the newspaper either — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do it.
“We can make a decision as to whether we can reach more people through one medium or the other. This really is just to say that IDEM is only required to do it online," says Stuckey.
The Environmental Rules Board expects to vote on the final rule at its next meeting on Nov. 14.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.