Greening the Statehouse Gathering in Indy
INDIANAPOLIS – Environmentalists will gather in Indianapolis Saturday for what’s billed as Greening of the Statehouse, a day of learning and engagement about Indiana's most pressing environmental issues.
This year's focus is on agriculture and safeguarding the state's air, water and quality of life.
Kim Ferraro, staff attorney and director of Agriculture and Water Policy at the Hoosier Environmental Council, says it's an important issue because this year there were several proposed policy measures aimed at significantly weakening protections from polluting industrial livestock operations.
"Because of the massive amount of manure and waste that these facilities produce that aren't very well regulated, we're seeing a lot of problems,” Ferraro maintains. “So these bills were really aimed at eliminating the ability to hold them accountable for the harm that they cause."
Ferraro adds that had those special protections passed, they would have threatened the ability of local and state policymakers to properly balance agricultural interests with the goals of environmental quality, food safety and animal well-being.
Other forum topics include clean energy and mass transit, as well as educating participants on how to safeguard a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations.
Ferraro says the most damaging proposed measure, the Right to Hunt and Fish, would amend the state constitution to create a fundamental right to engage in the commercial production of meat, poultry and dairy products.
She says that would make it difficult to impose or enforce restrictions on factory farms and those practices that are damaging to public and environmental health.
"Our right to vote, freedom of religion, right to bear arms and just as an initial measure, the right to commercially produce meat doesn't really seem on par with our very sacred constitutional rights," she says.
If lawmakers approve the measure this year, it could appear before voters in the November 2014 election.
This is the sixth annual Greening the Statehouse and an estimated 300 people are expected to attend the gathering at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Campus Center.