The Indiana Department of Environmental Management wants to use the economy as a pretext for reneging on recycling grants it promised to several communities and environmental agencies. Hard economic times certainly force people to set priorities, but this decision suggests that protecting the environment is not among Gov. Mitch Daniels’ priorities.
The agency announced this week it was suspending at least six state grants that help pay for recycling and pollution prevention programs for the next 18 to 30 months. Agency officials claim delaying the promised grants will save about $2 million and is a needed cost-saving measure.
The problem is these grants were already awarded, and the agencies that were supposed to receive the state dollars are depending on the money to run their programs. The decision means that about $3 million that was previously approved for recycling or pollution prevention programs by the state will not get to the intended groups.
IDEM officials said they were postponing the grants because it “may not be feasible” for local governments and businesses to come up with the required matching dollars because of the economy. And the funding suspension was in response to a request from Daniels asking state agencies to identify programs that could be cut or deferred to ensure there would be enough money for health care, public safety and education.
It’s hard to argue against protecting public safety, education and health care dollars. But money invested in recycling and ensuring pollution is regulated are not wasted. Those investments pay over time. Landfills last longer, costly environmental cleanups are avoided and residents’ health and well-being are protected.
Leaders in the Daniels administration should keep in mind that talented workers don’t want to live in a state that is polluted and unhealthy. And businesses can’t grow if they can’t attract and retain a good workforce.
According to leaders at the Indiana Recycling Coalition, the programs hurt by the grant suspensions not only help Indiana’s environment, but they also help the state’s economy. The state dollars help local governments maintain recycling programs and create green jobs.
The need to re-examine state spending in light of the recession is wise. But the decision to delay recycling grant dollars could harm important programs – and is just the latest IDEM decision on a growing list that clearly demonstrates Daniels’ lack of support for environmental protection.