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Energy Task Force Extended Two Years, Democrats Question Membership Changes

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A state House committee voted to extend a task force charged with developing energy policy for Indiana for another two years. But some lawmakers are concerned the new makeup of the task force wouldn’t best represent Hoosiers.

Under the bill, the task force would have fewer energy experts appointed by the governor and none of them would have to represent utility customers.

Democratic lawmakers — who tend to favor renewable energy sources — would also likely make up less of the task force. Republicans would get to appoint twice as many lawmakers. Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) said it’s tradition to have a more equal distribution of parties in summer study committees.

“I just don’t think it makes any sense to have it be this lopsided," he said.

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The author of the bill, Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), said the task force would reflect the party affiliations of the legislature as a whole.

“Bring it to somewhere near the balance of what the election took us to," he said.

The 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force would address topics it didn’t look into last year — like energy efficiency, rooftop solar, energy investment districts known as "green zones," and how to assist communities that rely on coal.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) said that the task force should also specifically address the effect of energy policy on low-income and minority Hoosiers. 

"I think we need to be very clear in the bill on the topic of racial, environmental justice and energy justice," she said. "If we're not clear on that and specific in what that is and have a clear understanding of what that is, oftentimes — like many things — those communities, particularly minority communities, get overlooked."

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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.

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