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Environmental conference coming to Wabash

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - hpnews@h-ponline.com

The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) will be holding its annual Green the Statehouse legislative conference at the Honeywell Center in November.

The conference brings environmental advocates and lawmakers together to talk about the state’s natural resources and how public policy affects the environment.

This will be the first time the HEC has held its annual conference outside of central Indiana.

Wabash was selected in part because it is home to Indiana’s largest river. But HEC Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda said the council also wanted to attract attendees from outside the Indianapolis area, and Wabash’s proximity to other major cities like Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Lafayette and Logansport made it an ideal location for the conference.

The primary topic this year is water quality.

Keynote speaker Dr. Jeff Reutter, a former director for the Center for Lake Erie Area Research, will talk about a variety of issues affecting Indiana’s waterways, like algal blooms, nutrient pollution and invasive species, according to an announcement for the event.

“There’s a good degree of behind-the-scenes progress happening when it comes to improving our rivers and lakes, from cities upgrading their sewage infrastructure to state lawmakers, on a bipartisan basis, trying to more intentionally reward water and wastewater utilities for responsible management,” Kharbanda said. “But our waters are facing more risks that are not being adequately addressed by public policy, including from CAFO waste pits, coal ash dumps and abandoned industrial waste sites.”

The HEC also plans to spotlight several policy discussions, particularly those related to water quality and solar energy.

“The number of jobs in solar energy have now surpassed those in coal mining in Indiana,” Kharbanda said. “Any yet Indiana’s public policies towards solar took a turn for the worse in 2017, when Indiana became the first state in the country – to our knowledge – to legislatively phase out its central solar incentive, called net metering, and prohibit ways to make rooftop solar more affordable.”

Kharbanda said he’d like to see the Indiana General Assembly reverse this policy in favor of more solar-friendly policies.

The conference will be held Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Honeywell Center. Tickets are $35 general admission and $20 for students.