In a move that has angered environmental activists, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has ceased issuing fines against Indiana state agencies that violate environmental permits.
Instead, the agency is using legal settlements, or "agreed orders", to take care of issues.
However, these agreed orders carry no risk of fines or other penalties, so there is no incentive for agencies to stop violating their permits.
The Indiana Department of Transportation, for example, violated wastewater permits over 550 times by releasing ammonia into streams. INDOT's agreed order stated that it had to close certain treatment plants and send wastewater to a public facility, but the agency did not receive any fines.
Fortunately, other states plan on taking a more positive approach to environmental responsibility in the new year. Ohio will require its utlities to buy a percentage of their power from renewable sources, Iowa will require state agencies to purchase renewable energy, and New Hampshire will require the state to buy fuel containing biodiesel.