INDIANAPOLIS – Republican lawmakers — along with Democrats and clean energy advocates — want to figure out the decommissioning and disposal of Indiana’s solar and wind energy equipment before it becomes a large-scale problem.
Senate Bill 33, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, would direct the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Regulatory Commission to conduct a joint study on phasing out older solar panels and wind turbines.
“We often react after the fact – [after] we have environmental concerns, we have industrial waste concerns — and we’re not trying to address those concerns until we have a significant problem managing the volume of material,” Walker told the Senate Public Utilities Committee Thursday.
According to Walker, hundreds of thousands of aging steel underground storage tanks in the United States are leaking oil and other hazardous substances.
The contents of the tanks can leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater — the source of drinking water used by about half of the nation’s population, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Many of these tanks had been abandoned for decades, Walker added: “We’re still dealing with a mess of sites that haven’t pumped fuel for 25, 30, 35 years.”
In Walker’s bill, an IDEM and IURC study would review a new state program to manage the decommissioning and disposal of solar and wind energy, which agency could implement the program and how it would fund the task.
It also reviews research on funding assistance for decommissioning and disposal, who bears financial responsibility and a number of other legal nuances, best practices for disposal or recycling, and the expected life of equipment and criteria for classifying it as “inoperable” or “irreparable”. will guide the conduct.
Utility consumer, environmental and waste management advocates threw their support behind the bill, though some wanted the bill to leave room for stakeholder participation in the agencies’ investigation.
Others have pushed Indiana to see an opportunity to lead the old equipment recycling industry and properly fund those efforts.
“[When] we get a [cardboard] box, we think to ourselves, what are we going to do with it? Jessie Biggerman of the Indiana Association of Solid Waste Management Districts In Indiana, we can recycle and reuse it, repurpose it, fix it in our state and start all over again.
“It’s the same thing with solar panels,” Biggerman said, adding that almost all of the materials in the panels can be recycled.
Lawmakers also considered a proposal to audit energy use at the Indiana Statehouse campus in Indianapolis. Senate Bill 221 also gained widespread and bipartisan support after author Sen. Andy Zey, R-Huntington, deleted a section that would have created a state coal reserve.
Instead, Zay said he would ask management directly to form an education committee that summer.
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