INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 9, 2017) – An Indiana bill would nullify all EPA regulations within the state, and place sole authority for environmental regulations in the hands of a state agency.
Rep. Chris Judy filed House Bill 1127 (HB1127) on Jan. 5. The legislation rests on the following legislative finding:
“The regulation making authority of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is not authorized by any article or amendment of the Constitution of the United States and violates the Constitution’s true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifiers.”
Based on the finding, the bill declares that “all regulations imposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency before, on, or after July 1, 2016, are void in Indiana.” In short, all of them.
HB1127 goes on to direct the state to provide environmental protection through the department of environmental management. Under the law, the department would take on sole responsibility for the implementation of all necessary rules concerning environmental protection in Indiana.
President-elect Donald Trump recently appointed Scott Pruitt as his EPA head. He is known to be a “climate-change denier” and many speculate he will rein in far-reaching EPA regulations. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA several times to thwart federal regulations.
Although states may find some relief under the Trump administration, Indiana should still act. Passage of HB1127 would send a strong signal of support for rolling back onerous regulations to the new administration, and it could thwart the implementation unconstitutional federal regulations that remain in place. After all, environmental policy should be handled at the state level under the Constitution.
How implementation of HB1127 would play out in practice remains unclear. Presumably, the state would simply refuse to enforce or implement future EPA regulations. It might serve the legislature well to amend the bill to include anti-commandeering language specifically prohibiting any state agency from cooperating with the implementation or enforcement of EPA rules, regulations or directives.
The legislation rests on rock-solid constitutional principles. But many in the legal profession will wrong-headedly dispute Indiana’s authority to declare federal regulations void. Nevertheless, there is no question that the state can simply refuse to enforce or implement federal acts or programs. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government cannot commandeer state resources or personnel for federal purposes. The anti-commandeering doctrine rests on four Supreme Court cases dating all the way back to Prigg v. Pennsylvania in 1842.
Currently, the EPA works directly with state agencies to implement federal regulations and programs. This would end with passage of HB1127. No matter the outcome of the legal wrangling that would likely ensue, the EPA would have a difficult time implementing its programs if the Indiana government refused to cooperate.
HB1127 was referred to the House Committee on Environmental Affairs where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full House for further consideration.