State senator creates climate-friendly bill to bring more revenue to Indiana and improve environment

A statewide climate-friendly bill is in the works and it's set to put Indiana on the maps.

Posted: Sep 19, 2020 12:18 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- A statewide climate-friendly bill is in the works and it's set to put Indiana on the maps.

The "Carbon Off-Set" bill will create a system that benefits both large companies nationwide and land-owners locally. State Senator Mark Stoops of District 40 is authoring the bill. It works to do three things: help large companies go greener, help land-owners make some money, and it benefits the environment as a whole.

"This is a totally voluntary program, any company that says we want to off-set our emissions, whether it's from using a lot of power, using a lot of energy or burning a lot of gasoline or jet fuel or whatever they can voluntarily decide to pay people to store more carbon through these carbon off-sets," said Jeff Dukes, director of Purdue Climate Change Research Center.

Dukes joins a number of Purdue climate and agriculture experts in support of the bill. On Wednesday, he attended a committee meeting at the Statehouse where he gave a testimony sharing the environmental benefits of the program.

The "Carbon Off-Set" bill is helping farmers and land-owners capitalize on the natural process that happens with their plants and soils, which soak up and store carbons from the air. Large corporations like airlines, manufacturing facilities, and product delivery services are examples of companies that are responsible for emitting some of the carbon pollutants currently in the atmosphere. The bill encourages these kinds of corporations to "go greener" by paying Indiana farmers and land-owners to find more efficient ways to plant and/or treat their soil in order to make it healthier. The healthier the plants and soil, the better it can soak up the carbons in the air.

He said the market of companies moving toward a "greener" approach is growing rapidly. Companies are now budgeting money specifically for programs or systems that can help cut down on carbon emissions. Sen. Stoop said the "Carbon Off-Set" bill is adding Indiana in the mix. States like Califonia, Alaska, and North Carolina already have a "Carbon Off-Set" program, in fact, he said a number of Indiana corporations are paying farmers and land-owners in those states right now.

"I hope we're able to capture more of that money for the state of Indiana and to actually be able to help change farming practices that actually improves soil health at the same time and so I think it's a win-win," said Stoops.

Sen. Stoops said Indiana has five million acres of forest land and 90% of it is privately owned. This land can store or "soak up" 20 to 30 million tons of carbon per year. He said Indiana also has 15 million acres of farmland which can store or "soak up" about 8 tons of carbon per year. Companies could pay anywhere from 50-cents to $22 dollars per acre.

Sen. Stoops said part of the state's "Carbon Off-Set" bill includes creating an official website that will make it easy for corporations and farmers/land-owners to connect. The state will also seek out a number of climate and agriculture experts that will help both companies and farmers/land-owners navigate how to measure carbon in-take as well as navigate pricing. This bill also includes providing contact information for a third-party auditor to ensure that corporations and farmers/land-owners are getting a fair deal. 

The bill also allows corporations to give money to the Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust Fund, which will distribute those funds back to farmers/land-owners to create better planting/soil treating practices.

Sen. Stoops said the bill has seen bipartisan support and it will be decided on during the next legislative session.

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