Indiana’s recent move to freeze a grant and loan program that attracts recycling businesses could cost the state new development and jobs, a recycling advocate and a company official warned a state panel Thursday.
Recycling advocates warn of fund freeze’s impact
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In its first meeting since the state’s action, the Recycling Market Development Board also heard from a state senator and recycling advocates upset by the freeze announced in December.
Carey Hamilton, executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, told the panel that the temporary funding suspension threatens the state’s share of the multi-billion-dollar recycling industry at a time when the nation’s “green” economy is growing.
She said holding up grants and loans used to attract new businesses to the state could put Indiana at a disadvantage competing with other states to attract new recycling jobs.
“States such as ours, which has a manufacturing history and strength, really need to do all we can to take advantage of the momentum that exists despite our down economy,” said Hamilton, whose coalition has 180 groups statewide involved in recycling, composting and source reduction.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management cited the nation’s recession Dec. 30 when it announced that it had halted funding through at least summer 2010 for state grant and loan programs that support recycling and pollution prevention.
In announcing the decision, IDEM said it “may not be feasible” for cash-strapped local governments and businesses to provide the matching dollars needed under the programs.
The suspension means some money that had been allocated won’t reach the intended recipients.
Among the money frozen is $15.6 million in a fund the board taps to award grants and loans to recycling businesses seeking to locate or expand their operations in Indiana. That fund is sustained by state fees trash haulers pay at the state’s landfills.
Dawn Grimes, a regional manager for Luminous Electronic Recycling, told the board that the funding freeze has prompted the Denver-based company to “pause and re-evaluate” its plans for a $1.5 million Richmond plant that would employ 50 to 70 workers.
Grimes said Luminous, which recycles computers, televisions and other electronics, is now evaluating other states as possible sites for that plant.
“We feel suspending these programs will deter companies within your state as well as companies outside your state from investing in recycling operations within Indiana,” she said, reading a letter from Luminous President and CEO Steve Fuelberth.
State Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said she wanted to get a copy of Fuelberth’s letter “and perhaps send it to the governor to let him see the impact of this administrative decision.”
She said she wonders if the interest the state is earning on the fund money as the funding remains frozen is worth the potential lost jobs the suspension could cause.
Jesse Kharbanda, the executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, told the board the state needs to “make wise policy decisions” to attract new development.
“The modest amount of money here, about $15 million, is a pretty trivial expenditure in the whole scheme of things in order to make our state robust and competitive,” he said.
Jeff Miller, a board member who’s also a member of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, asked IDEM officials who attended Thursday’s meeting if the agency might consider allocating the $1.3 million the board had approved for three companies that is now on hold.
Rick Bossingham, assistant commissioner of IDEM’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Technical Assistance, said the agency is “willing to consider the board’s question and provide a formal answer” to that request at its May meeting.